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Master Craftsman Series

Massa Gioconda

The 2023 Tucson Gem Show closed this week and it was a whirlwind. The highlight of the show wasn't buying gemstones but meeting so many amazing artists. Through a series of events that can only happen at the Gem show I was introduced to master chasing and repoussé artist Valentin Yoktov. A truly lovely man, Valentin graciously introduced me to Giusppe Marotta. and my passion for cameos was ignited.

Massa Gioconda, Torre Del Greco, Napoli, Italy.

Founded in 1976 by the four Marotta brothers, Massa Gioconda (named after their mother) produces museum-quality sardonyx shell cameos carved by the finest cameo artisans in the world.

The art of cameo carving can be traced back to 300 BC Alexandria, Egypt. During the rise of the Roman Empire, cameo craftsmen expanded upon their uses and portrayed political portraits into their artwork. Cameo carving greatly progressed during the Renaissance and Elizabethan periods when elite women wore cameos to showcase their cultural status. Famous collectors of cameos include Queen Victoria and Emperor Napoleon Buonaparte.

Today the most precious and valuable cameos are hand carved by the talented master carver Vincenzo Imposimato. Vincenzo first creates stunning drawings of each cameo then patiently hand carves each pieces using simple traditional tools. There are currently only 100 cameo carvers in Torre del Greco that practice this painstaking art of hand carving.

Vincenzo Imposimato demonstrating at the Tucson Gem Show.

What are cameos?

Cameo is carved relief in a hard or precious stone agate, sardonyx, onyx, coral, mother-of-pearl, shell and various gemstones. Imitations of such stones in glass (called pastes) are also used.

Massa Gioconda cameos are carved from Sardonyx Shell (trade name) - Cassis Rufa also known as the BullMouth Helmet shell. This shell has white and dark brown layers and looks similar to the layered agate known as sardonyx. Sardonyx Shell, a prized material from the waters of the Caribbean.

Massa Gioconda shell cameos have become the symbol of elegance and timeless beauty. The family's dedication to excellence in craft, sustainability of the environment, support and passion for artisans and passion for beauty are unrivaled.

Contemporary cameos by V. Impostimato for Massa Gioconda

If you find yourself in Naples be sure to visit Massa Gioconda and plan to see they in 2024 during the Tucson Gem Show. Massa Gioconda at The GJX Show, Tucson. Booth 405-506

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Instagram: Massagioconda

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