Renato Cipullo is a master jeweler known for his exquisite artistry. He is a genius at taking ordinary materials like lava and elevating them to fine jewelry. Inspired by his late brother Aldo Cipullo, also a well-known jewelry designer, Renato designs timeless, elegant pieces for his discerning clients.
Renato Cipullo was born in a small town square in Naples. It overlooked a street nicknamed “Via Degli Orefici” as it housed many jewelers. It seemed he was destined to craft gems from the very beginning. His father, Giuseppe Cipullo, was a costume jewelry designer with seven workshops in Florence. His children worked with him after school, lending a hand wherever needed. To this day, jewelry design is a passion that unites the Cipullo family as all five siblings went on to work in the same field.
In 1959, Aldo Cipullo, Renato’s elder brother, moved to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Visual Arts. The older Cipullo started working for the jeweler David Webb to finish his studies. After two years, he moved on to Tiffany & Co. Renato Cipullo joined Aldo in the Big Apple in 1964. He too began working at David Webb’s studio, but instead of going to Tiffany’s with his brother, he returned to Italy six months after arriving in the U.S. to avoid the Vietnam Draft. Renato settled in Ischia, where he opened a fashion boutique.
The boutique flourished. He sold avant-garde pieces and dressed celebrities like Marisa Berenson and Fred Bongusto. According to Renato, everyone passed by his store. In 1971, he closed the shop for the winter and traveled to Paris. He called Aldo in New York, complaining about the frigid temperatures. “It’s cold here too,” his brother replied, “join me; at least let’s spend some time together.”
Return to New York
Packing his bags, Renato Cipullo made his way back to New York. Upon his arrival, Aldo gave him some advice, “Remember to always dress as if you were at home, in the Italian style.” The Cipullo brothers distinguished themselves as Italians. Even now, his work retains influences from his culture that make his designs unique.
Renato found himself relatively unoccupied upon his arrival in New York. He began designing holiday cards that his friend presented to Bergdorf Goodman to keep himself busy. However, their timing was off as it was too late in the year to submit holiday cards. A disappointed Renato was asked to return in July.
Meanwhile, his brother Aldo was facing challenges of his own. He was having trouble communicating his vision to the jewelry model makers at Tiffany’s. Aldo found that the model makers weren’t accurately reproducing his sketches, so he called his brother in to help. Aldo traced, and Renato created the jewelry models. “My brother drew the sketches, and I captured them immediately,” Renato said, “there was a deep connection and harmony between us.” The brothers used the childhood experience of their father’s workshop to work as a team.
While Renato’s brother Aldo worked in New York, their other sibling Eduardo distinguished himself as a costume designer in Italy. Renato Cipullo, now presented with exciting opportunities, chose to move back and forth between Italy and the United States. Eduardo was known for using Swarovski crystals on his costume designs, which was unheard of at the time. Whenever Renato was in Italy, he would construct the models for Eduardo’s creations.
From his workshop in New York, Renato’s talent began to be recognized. Before long, he had gained an extensive clientele that included celebrities and royalty.
Renato C. Jewelry Company
Renato launched his first collection in 1974. His inspiration came from the years he had spent living by the water. He expressed his personality using shells and other materials through the sea collection. “I was born by the sea, and the passion for the marine dimension has always accompanied me,” he explained. Many of the accents used in his pieces, like shells and coral, were collected by Renato himself in Italy.
Having made a name for himself, Renato established a studio in New York, creating bespoke jewelry for private clients. The intimate collaboration with his buyers produced pieces that fulfilled their vision while still expressing Renato’s signature style.
He stresses that his work is always original, no matter what the client might want. He tells one story of a client who wanted a ring designed. She presented Renato with a newspaper clipping of the setting she wanted for her 21-carat gemstone. He responded by saying that he did not do copies “least of all for work on a stone worth $1,100,000.” Renato made the ring after his buyer gave him carte blanche to create a design of his choosing.
By the time he set up his studio, his brother Aldo had already made a name for himself as a jewelry maker of note. At that time, Renato did not want to leverage his brother’s already-famous name and chose to sign his work Renato C. instead.
The Renato Cipullo Legacy
Renato Cipullo sold custom pieces exclusively made for private clients. His signature included handcrafted creations that incorporated unlikely materials like raw Sicilian salt rock. His love for using 18-carat gold was also well known. He even quipped, “The English may do 14-carat or even 9-carat, but I am Italian. I don’t even know what 14-carat is.”
Early in 2019, he expanded into retail. He said changing his business model was his way of continuing his family legacy. His daughter Serena joined the company after attending college in Connecticut and working in New York. She represents a new chapter in the Cipullo story. With Serena’s input, their designs are evolving to cater to younger consumers with different tastes.
The stand-out piece from Renato Cipullo’s Amore collection is the Amore pendant. The piece measures 1.5 inches and is shaped like a key that reads “amore,” the word for love in Italian. Constructed out of 18-carat gold, the pendant is embedded with 60 pave diamonds.
The Amore pendant is a homage to his early work. In the 70s, Renato Cipullo originally crafted a similar charm, but it did not include diamonds. The combination symbolized the key to one’s heart.
The Amore collection also features the Amorini necklace, a cherub carrying a pear-shaped ruby. The angel is made of 18-carat gold with two diamonds for the eyes.
The Fiore Amore necklace is an exquisite chain with garnets, diamonds, and rubies. The focal point is the flower made of gold with a diamond set in the middle.
Another statement piece from this grouping is the Amorosa necklace. The chain consists of geometric block letters that read “Amore.” You can also get the letters to spell out love in French or German.
The Amore collection is all about love. Renato chose the more subtle approach for some of his pieces, like crafting Cupid-like cherubs. But with his main statement design, he did not beat around the bush. He incorporated the word “Amore” for everyone to see and appreciate.
The Romantica collection was inspired by Roma Antica, which translates to Ancient Rome. Although Renato was born in Naples, he grew up in Rome before moving to the United States. His Italian roots have heavily influenced his work. It is no surprise, therefore, that he put together a collection that celebrated Rome’s past glories.
With designs like the Sovrano earrings, Renato was not afraid to dive into his subject matter. These round disks resemble gladiator shields. Sovrano earrings are constructed from 18-carat gold with a matte finish that gives the shield an authentic battle-weary look. The coral at the center of the disk represents Renato Cipullo’s love of using materials he collects from the sea.
The collection also features an 18-carat gold link bracelet with rubies. An exciting feature in this Ruby Romantica bracelet is Renato’s use of rubies to create texture. The Sollievo earrings, which are also part of Romantica, are one-of-a-kind items handcrafted from Neapolitan coral.
The Romantica collection is a bold undertaking. Here, Renato showcased his genius in taking ordinary materials like coral and elevating them to fine jewelry. The body of work is also a celebration of his youth, using products from Naples to tell the story of Ancient Rome.
In 1969, Renato’s brother Aldo Cipullo created the Cartier Love bracelet and ushered in a new age of casual luxury. Before the Love bracelet, jewelry was only worn on special occasions. Aldo Cipullo changed that with a design that was intended for everyday wear. The unisex band features tiny screws that are secured with a special screwdriver. Decades after its creation, the Cartier Love bracelet remains one of the most iconic pieces of jewelry.
As an ode to his late brother, Renato Cipullo designed the Armonia bracelet. Like the Love bracelet, Armonia has a motif of small screws and a cleverly hidden clasp. The piece is made of 18-carat gold and differs from the Love bracelet as it doesn’t feature a solid band. Instead, Armonia is constructed from two slender gold bands linked by the screw motif.
The Cipullo brothers grew up crafting jewelry in their father’s workshop. The Armonia bracelet is a touching commemoration of Aldo and Renato’s love for their craft and each other.
The Pisatrella bracelet is another bold statement. Made of 18-carat gold with a matte finish on the outside and a mirrored finish on the inside, the wide cuff bracelet weighs an impressive 167.5 grams.
The piece is part of the designer’s Return to the Sea collection of 1974, which heavily featured nautical themes. Having grown up by the ocean, he wanted to include some elements of his home in his designs.
Renato’s Piastrella bracelet can be customized to incorporate one-of-a-kind motifs like jeweled crabs, turtles, or starfish. Once these motifs are affixed to the matte gold band, they give the illusion of the beach early in the morning while the tide is still out.
The Piastrella bracelet is an excellent example of Renato Cipullo’s work. He is a master at crafting elaborate pieces that are essentially wearable works of art.
Renato Cipullo prefers to work with 18-carat gold. At the beginning of his career, the norm was to use 14-carat gold – but this was not an option for Renato. He knew what he liked, and he wasn’t going to waver. Even when gold more than doubled in price in the 70s, Renato chose to make watches. He was not going to create jewelry with anything other than 18-carat gold. All of his designs are made from recycled gold. Crazy about the metal he may be, but he is careful to source it sustainably.
The ornamental accents he uses for his designs like shell and coral are also sustainably sourced. Renato often travels to Italy to collect these materials. He will walk the beaches of Positano and gather coral or go to Stromboli for lava. Long before sustainability became fashionable, he was always careful and particular about the materials he used.
Renato Cipullo: A Master Jeweler
Immersed in the world of jewelry from the time of his birth, Renato Cipullo’s talent and passion allowed him to create a name for himself as an extraordinary fine jewelry crafter. With 18-carat gold as his canvas, he constructed bold and uncompromising designs that are in themselves works of art. “I like to do pieces that are different from other designers,” he said, “I make smaller pieces and more dramatic ones.”
His designs are known not only for their fearlessness but their resourcefulness. “I started transforming materials by rediscovering their value,” he explained. “I transformed an element like lava into a jewel because the material in its essence is also beautiful.”
The influences of his Italian roots are evident in his work. Nautical themes and elements of Ancient Rome mark his designs. The medieval villages of Italy have also played a part in inspiring the designer’s collections. Renato Cipullo never forgot where he came from. He successfully merged Italian culture with the American aesthetic.
Estate Diamond Jewelry, known for its enviable collection of rare, vintage fine jewelry, curates Renato Cipullo designs. His elaborate work, some of which had been made for his exclusive clientele, can be viewed and bought directly from the Estate Diamond Jewelry website or their showroom in New York.