Castellani Antique Jewelry - A Story About Timeless Perfection

The Castellani House needs no further introduction. It is an emblem of timeless perfection in the world of antique jewelry, one of the most famous in history.

In "The Beautiful Art Of Jewelry", Roberto Benedetti briefly tells the story of Fortunato Pio Castellani, the founder of what would become the most famous family of goldsmiths in Rome in the nineteenth century.

Castellani & The Etruscan Style Antique Jewelry

Fortunato Pio Castellani was born in Rome in 1794 and had opened his first workshop in 1814, in Palazzo Raggi, in Via del Corso (a workshop that was later transferred, in 1854, to number 82 of Piazza Poli) and in 1815 he obtained his goldsmith license.

Initially, Fortunato Pio devoted himself to the reproduction of foreign jewelry, because, according to experts in the field, the Italian style of jewelry since the fall of the eighteenth century no longer existed in the major cities of Italy.

Today Castellani is remembered as the initiator of the style later defined as "Etruscan" or even "archaeological", an important innovation in the history of jewelry, at the basis of which was a radical reinvention of the technique of granulation and filigree. These skills were learned through the study of the history of Hellenic and Roman jewelry but also barbaric, Byzantine, and Renaissance ( the Castellani family members were great collectors of such fascinating archaeological finds).

Fortunato Pio's jewels were made through a particular electrochemical process that he himself had developed and that allowed him to give the gold the coloration that recalled that of the gold findings of pre-Roman times.

Castellani Had Numerous Famous Clients

The close association with the Duke of Sermoneta Michelangelo Caetani, who soon became his artistic consultant and provided him with drawings and sketches inspired by the findings of the Etruscan and Pompeian excavations, introduced his jewelry in the noble Roman environment and helped him to expand his clientele in the rest of Italy and Europe.

He had numerous famous clients - among whom Luciano Bonaparte also appeared - and the success of his workshop was such that it allowed him to realize his dream of founding a school for goldsmiths "with the intention of enhancing and applying the ancient techniques, thus conducting a work of safeguarding traditional popular goldsmithing."

The Grand House Of Castellani Attained Excellence

The jewelry of the Grand Castellani House reflected the excellence of the entire goldsmith sector of the nineteenth century.

Castellani received various international awards, first of all being that of the International Exhibition of Paris in 1862, with a special mention for the technical innovation introduced:

"Fifteen years ago, Castellani had the idea of taking the manufacturing methods of the ancients in the manufacture of jewelry pieces and reproducing the forms used by them, changing them but retaining the general imprint, which led to a total renewal of Roman jewelry, a suspension of foreign imports, and on the contrary a very considerable increase in local production".

The Slow Revival Of The Roman School

It is Alessandro Castellani himself, one of Fortunato Pio's sons, who gave scholars a picture of the situation of Roman and Italian goldsmiths in the second half of the 19th century, describing a climate of slow recovery determined above all by the opening of his father's school:

"And this benefit could be obtained through the school, which with the advice and intelligent cooperation of Duke Don Michelangelo Caetani, our family managed to found in Rome around 1840. The admiration that this return to the old traditions aroused in the intelligent people of every country, at first spurred the Roman goldsmiths so much that we could see in a few years various workshops opening in Rome, one after the other, as if by magic".

Alessandro Castellani, however, closed his detailed analysis of the state of Italian jewelry on the international scene by lamenting the almost total absence of "industrial museums" to be installed in the main centers of goldsmith production, in the wake of what had already been done "in England, Austria, Germany and Russia" and what was about to be done in France.

Fortunato Pio's son explained that, with these industrial museums, equipped with specialization schools, financed by the state, it would have been possible to strengthen the preparation of quality craftsmanship, competitive on an international level.

"Let's hope that the Government, the municipalities, and the citizens will finally recognize the urgent need to educate our workers through schools open in the museums. And in this regard, I must mention the municipality of Rome, which several years ago started one of these industrial museums, which, although confronted with a thousand difficulties, and poorly housed on a fifth floor of the Roman College, was able to exhibit in this exhibition in Paris [the 1878 Exhibition] essays of drawing made by its students so well, that they obtained prizes and honors for our city".

Despite the hopes that Alessandro Castellani had placed in the ruling class of the newborn Kingdom of Italy, French fashion was to dominate the jewelry market for almost a century, and the glorious Roman craftsmanship would have had to wait for the end of the Second World War before being able to appear again on the international market, with renewed vigor.

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