by Anne Mock, GG, Associate Specialist
From nineteenth-century Italy to present-day Florida, the Aletto family has been hand-crafting fine jewels for five consecutive generations. In 1889, the house's story began when Neapolitan Bartolomeo Aletto was commissioned to design and produce a piece of jewelry commemorating the completion of the Eiffel Tower at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Bartolomeo's son, Raffaele, continued his father's legacy, working for many leading Italian jewelers of the day. The family later made their way across the Atlantic, settling first in Caracas, Venezuela in 1949, and then in New York City in the 1960s. Today, the company is based in Boca Raton, Florida, where Alfredo Aletto (Bartolomeo's great-grandson) and his four children run the company.
The house's story began when...Neapolitan Bartolomeo Aletto was commissioned to design and produce a piece of jewelry commemorating the completion of the Eiffel Tower.
While most modern jewelry houses have a dedicated crafts-person for each step of the fabrication process, Alfredo Aletto does it all. Even more remarkably, Aletto is a self-taught jeweler, who learned by experimenting with different techniques until he mastered them. Having only seen an 'invisible' setting once, he made up his mind to learn and master the technique. Once perfected, Aletto reached out to Van Cleef & Arpels, who had pioneered the method in the 1930s and introduced it to the American jewelry market. He met with Claude Arpels himself and was offered contract work for the iconic company in the mid-1980s.
Alfredo Aletto's workbench within his Boca Raton studio
Today, 35 years later, Alfredo continues to craft jewelry using this exceptionally difficult technique. The glittering ruby and diamond flower brooch (lot 138) and pair of earrings (lot 139) are prime examples of his craftsmanship. Working from his own design and a parcel of calibrated gemstones, Alfredo first created the intricate framework of the piece, with a 'track' where the stones are invisibly set. He then cut, blocked, polished and grooved each individual stone to fit into a specific space in the frame—like a puzzle. This skill requires extensive calculation and extreme focus, remaining out of reach for most bench jewelers.
Each leaf on the flower brooch took roughly two weeks to set.
A one-of-a-kind ruby, diamond, platinum and gold brooch
Each leaf on the flower brooch took roughly two weeks to set, for a total of seven weeks spent in setting alone. The brooch was then fully assembled with small, removable screws, allowing any potential repair work to be done without disrupting the rest of the piece. Each petal in the delicate flower earrings took approximately one week to set, resulting in a smooth surface of brilliantly interwoven color, lacking any visible prongs or metal.
A true Renaissance man, Alfredo Aletto embodies the Old World tenant of a start-to-finish jeweler. This sets him and the company apart from other houses, allowing Aletto Brothers to create impeccably crafted and extremely personal works of wearable art.