Jewelry designer Roberto Faraone Mennella, who cofounded Italian jewelry firm Faraone Mennella by RFMAS with lifelong friend, former boyfriend, and fellow designer Amedeo Scognamiglio, has died at the age of 48 after roughly a yearlong battle with cancer.
Scognamiglio wrote on his Instagram Thursday, “My best friend, my rock, my mentor, my ‘eyes,’ my first date and endless love is now Light. Roberto Faraone Mennella won his war against cancer, this morning at 3 am…. Robu is finally free, healthy, smiling, happily sketching jewels and interiors in his new home in Heaven. He wanted to go before me, so that when my time comes our house and showroom in the sky will be ready to welcome me and my mess.”
The dynamic young designers launched their brand in 2001 with the mission of breathing new life into fine jewelry. One night out in New York City, they met Sex and the City costumer Patricia Field, and the trio became frequent collaborators—pieces from the pair regularly popped up on the popular TV show.
Before pivoting to jewelry design, Mennella studied law in Italy, then earned a degree in design marketing from Parsons School of Design.
Once in New York, the designers’ colorful, lively, and beautifully executed collection was championed by Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and other powerhouse retailers.
It wasn’t always easy. One story from the early days, which the designers told JCK jewelry editor Rima Suqi during a live interview at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2018, goes that Neiman Marcus wanted to place a huge order with the designers, but they didn’t have the money to make it happen—so Neiman Marcus fronted them the money. “This will never happen again,” Suqi says. “And it was obviously a long time ago, but it shows the confidence the retailer had in them as a brand.”
Suqi remembers Mennella as “very elegant,” and though he was naturally introverted, he blossomed into a great talker for stints on QVC and HSN, where he sold a non-fine jewelry collection on-air. A trip to the pair’s showroom, she recalls, meant “Roberto was the one draping you in jewelry. He was kind of hard to resist. He was also the one always fussing with their display at Bergdorf’s—he literally went in every single day when he was in town.”
Mennella and Scognamiglio collaborated with fashion designer Carolina Herrera for five years, creating one-of-a-kind pieces inspired by her couture gowns. Soon after, in 2005, the partners debuted the Faraone Mennella Couture Collection.
In 2006 the pair introduced the Amedeo cameo collection, which put a new and irresistibly charming spin on classically made cameos.
The designing partners effectively made cameos cool again with their Amedeo collection (via @amedeokingofcameos).
“Following Roberto’s last wishes, there will be a very small private service in his family’s Chapel,” Scognamiglio wrote on Instagram. “Elegant and discreet forever.”
Top: Roberto Faraone Mennella (photo courtesy of HSN)
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