What to Collect Now: Vintage 1960s Frascarolo Animal Jewels

Frascarolo Bracelet and Earclips
Frascarolo Bracelet with Earclips (and a Matching Lipstick Case) Fetched $15,600 at Sotheby’s in 2010.

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.

18K Gold, Diamond, Ruby, Cultured Pearl and Enamel Belt Buckle, Rino Frascarolo circa 1966-1971
18K Gold, Diamond, Ruby, Cultured Pearl and Enamel Belt Buckle, by Rino Frascarolo, Circa 1966-1971.
Photo Courtesy of Maries-Jewels-Royals.Blogspot.com

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.”

An Enamel and diamond Zebra Bangle by Frascarolo
An Enamel and Diamond Zebra Bangle by Frascarolo Sold Last Year at Christie’s for $14,621.

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.”

Enamel, Emerald and Gold Panther Ring
Enamel, Emerald and Gold Panther Ring Offered by Bernardo Antique and Estate Jewelry on 1stdibs.com for $3,600

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.

Frascarolo Brooch with David Webb Earclips
Christie’s Sold this Frascarolo Brooch as a Lot with David Webb Earclips for $4,635 in 2002.

Author’s Note

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.

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