What keeps fashion fresh and fascinating for me? It’s certainly not the hype, the hyperbole, the hoopla, the overblown egos, or following the so-called “influencers.” It’s the thrill of discovery and getting to know talented and passionate creatives dedicated to their craft, like Italian artist Anna Porcu who has reimagined the cameo, www.annaporcu.it
“It is a pure game of contrasts between the refined and delicate cameo and the masculine force of the leather. It’s a fusion of past and present, female and male.”Anna Porcu
Porcu takes historic museum-quality cameos from the 19th century, re-crafts the settings in gold or silver, and places them on a contemporary backdrop of leather. Entirely designed and handset in Italy, each necklace, bracelet, ring, and earring is unique, a tribute to masterful craftsmanship. And according to Anna, each piece of jewelry has a story and an ancient secret to tell.
“Only through stories can one fully enter another person’s life. I really believe in this claim, and every time someone chooses one of my creations, I interpret it as a declaration of their own personality. I consider my jewels “wearable stories,” says Porcu.
Several years ago, I met Anna at the Museum of Arts & Design’s Mad About Jewelry event. For the past 8 years, Anna has been invited to participate in this annual 5-day pop-up shop for contemporary artist-made jewelry. Bryna Pomp, an internationally renowned contemporary jewelry expert, is Director, MAD About Jewelry. She has curated this annual jewelry sale for the past 12 years.
“I love the contrast between the historic cameos and edgy contemporary leather. Anna is the only maker I see using cameos in a contemporary way”Bryna Pomp, Director, Museum of Arts & Design’s MAD About Jewelry.
Bryna praises the variety of subject matters, colorations, and materials in Anna’s work. the way she continues to renew the collection over the years, her consistency, and the commitment Anna has to her craft and to her loyal customers. And as Bryna notes, “When we think of cameos, we think of pins, and Anna’s work is such a departure.” In fact, there are no pins in Anna’s collection. It all began with the interchangeable leather bracelets and they remain Anna’s best sellers.
After the 2022 MAD About Jewelry show in April, I invited Porcu to come to my apartment and bring some of her treasures. As an avowed Italophile with an appreciation for antiquity who majored in art history in college, I felt an immediate kinship with Anna. I was not surprised that we were similarly dressed in black leather biker jackets and white jeans.
This simplistic uniform serves as the perfect backdrop for Anna’s undeniably cool jewelry, which exemplifies aesthetic oxymorons, juxtaposing the ethereal essence of an antique cameo with gritty leather strength, delicate carvings, and a contemporary design.
Priced from $2500 to $12,000 depending on the cameo, the subject, and the settings, these audacious stones are meant to be worn casually every day and not just saved for special occasions. It’s a point that is driven home on Anna’s website. The bold cameos are most often photographed on models wearing jaunty straw fedoras, easy button-down shirts, and tailored blazers rather than eveningwear.
The daughter of an antiquarian, Porcu inherited the knowledge of antique artifacts, an eye for rarity, and fineness to detail. After receiving her Master’s degree in art history, Anna did archival work in the Gucci archives in Milan and at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. In 2011, inspired by these experiences, she decided to create her own jewelry collection using rare antique cameos.
Porcu searches the world for museum-quality cameos in shell, ivory, amber, agate, and lava materials. She has become an expert in this art, which dates back to ancient Roman times.
All of the leather and the entire process of creating the jewelry is done by expert artisans in Tuscany, where Anna resides with her husband and two daughters.
Among Anna’s ongoing inspirations were her love of horses and her travels. Anna’s jewelry is worn by people all over the world. “It’s as if many little pieces are scattered worldwide, allowing me to feel diverse emotions in different places,” she says. Anna’s biggest client base is the U.S. Texas is number one, followed by New York, the city that first believed in Anna.
Anna is continually stimulated by Manhattan’s vibrant streets, rooftops, and eclectic people. “My spirit soars, and my heart tingles at the thought of being back in the city that first believed in me, recognized my art, and introduced my creations to the world. I’m grateful to Bryna Pomp, the Curator of MAD About Jewelry, and Michele Cohen, the MAD Museum Board chairman. My creations have been elevated by your most knowledgeable eyes and welcoming hearts.”