Guglielmo Cini was born in 1903 in Italy and arrived in the USA at the age of 17 already an accomplished jeweller and silversmith. His talents were soon recognised and he founded the Cini company in 1922 in Boston Massachusetts. The company specialised in silver jewellery with an emphasis on sculptural design. Cini silver jewellery employed a number of silversmithing techniques: repoussé (raised in relief as a design on a thin piece of metal hammered through from the underside1), filigree (delicate ornamental work of twisted gold, silver, or other wire1) and solid three dimensional casting (an object or figure that has been cast, especially in metal from a mould1). The company was moved to California and for many years Cini jewellery was sold at Gump’s in San Francisco. Gump’s was established in 1861 by two brothers Solomon and Gustav, their celebrity customers included Sarah Bernhardt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Gump’s archives show they were selling Cini silver jewellery until the mid-1960s. Gump’s sadly finally closed its doors in December 2018, yet another casualty of the retail recession. Cini ceased production in 1979 when Guglielmo died. His two granddaughters Amy and Molly reopened the business in 1993 selling vintage Cini pieces and re-casts from their grandfather’s original designs.
My Cini brooch is of a ‘Grasshopper on a Weathervane’, it is based on the weathervane on top of Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts. The original Faneuil Hall was built by Peter Faneuil, a slave trader in the early 1740s. It burnt down in 1761 and was rebuilt in 1762. During the British occupation of Boston it was used as a theatre. During the 19th century the hall was substantially remodelled. In 1960 the Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark with a recorded 18 million visitors in 2016.
The ‘Grasshopper’ weathervane has been a feature of the Hall from the start and is based on the weathervane on the Royal Exchange building in London. The grasshopper was the personal emblem of Sir Thomas Gresham (c1519-1579). Sir Thomas founded the first Royal Exchange in 1565, London has been a global financial centre ever since. There is a charming legend to the origins of the grasshopper in the Gresham coat of arms: it is claimed Sir Thomas’s ancestor Roger de Gresham was abandoned as an infant in the marshlands of Norfolk, the child was discovered by a woman who heard a chirruping grasshopper.
Cini produced a series of silver ‘Signs of the Zodiac’ and as this is the Brooch of the Month for March here is the Cini silver Aries (Aries 21st March to 19th April).
Footnotes:- 1 from the Collins English Dictionary.