Italian jewelry designer Pierino “Rino” Frascarolo was born in 1928 in Milan. He began his career as an apprentice with the Lunati family of goldsmiths and subsequently founded his own firm with partner Aldo Lenti. By 1948, the company was well on its way to producing jewelry to rival the leading French houses of the day.
Today, vintage 1960s Frascarolo animal jewels in enamel and 18k gold are considered highly collectible and sought after, a distinction that leads many to refer to Frascarolo as the “David Webb of Italy.”
According to a Sotheby’s catalog: “Renzo Basini, a Milanese designer and sculptor, Antonio Pietrolucci, an engraver, and Augusto Iberti, a goldsmith specializing in concealed settings, were part of a unique creative and technical team lead by Rino Frascarolo that introduced in the jewelry word a wide range of sculptural jewelry, taking its inspiration from the animal kingdom, representing tigers, lions, panthers, leopards, zebras, and elephants.”
In 1970, after partners Frascarolo and Lenti separated, Rino opened Frascarolo & Co. on Fifth Avenue in New York, where an American clientele eagerly sought his unique designs. The company’s production was interrupted by Frascarolo’s sudden death in 1976, in Valenza, Italy, at the young age of 48.
Interestingly, American jewelry designer David Webb, whose body of work paralleled Frascarolo’s, died in 1975 at the age of 50.
I had never heard of Frascarolo until I attended the Naples Jewelry and Antiques Show in July. While I was trying on an animal bracelet I mistakenly thought to be a David Webb design, a Pennsylvania dealer briefed me on Frascarolo’s work. He said that many savvy collectors are eagerly seeking out the Italian designer’s pieces and advised me to pounce (I politely declined). The dealer added that Frascarolo’s animal bracelets are superior to others because “they don’t slide around on the wrist.” Look for Frascarolo animal jewels at fine jewelry stores with vintage collections, and online at 1stdibs.com.