There is something special about sterling silver - especially when it has a story. This holiday season we have on offer select works by the later silversmith, Alfredo Sciarrotta. Sciarrotta was an Italian born engineer who lived and worked in Newport, Rhode Island from 1943 until his death in 1985. Among his more popular and most recognizable pieces are those with leaf-like forms - and popular they were during the 1960's when they were retailed across the country in fine stores including Gump's, Cartier, and Shreve, Crump & Low. But the story of this remarkable man is even more interesting and unusual than his work. Below I share a brief history of Sciarrotta's life. I hope enjoy reading about this "Legendary Local" and that you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. Please come and visit us in Newport.
- Patrick Dolat, Shopkeeper @ Newport Lamp & Shade Company
The following text is taken directly from Annie Sherman's book "Legendary Locals of Newport" as well as Wikipedia.com and Worthpoint.com.
A Pair of Sterling Silver Three-Light Candlesticks by Alfredo Sciarrotta
Currently on Offer at Newport Lamp & Shade Company
Sterling Silver Coffee Set by Alfredo Sciarrotta
The Life of Alfredo Sciarrotta
Alfredo Sciarrotta (May 25, 1907 – May 28, 1985) was an Italian-American silversmith and undersea weapons expert. The son of a dry goods merchant, Sciarrotta studied mechanical engineering at Alessandro Volta School of Engineering in Naples, Italy and remained in Naples working at a munitions factory during the years before World War II.
Sciarrotta came to the U.S. in 1943 to play a major role in a clandestine Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operation carried out at the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. As an engineer whose undersea weapons expertise was acquired in Naples, Italy under the scientist Carlo Colossi, who invented the first magnetic torpedo exploder for the Germans during World War II, Sciarrotta was a critical asset to the U.S Navy when Italy fell to the Allies.
In order to protect the secret hardware for the Allied war effort, Sciarrotta and a team of scientists and engineers were smuggled out of Italy with weapon-related hardware and tools plus two small submarines and a torpedo that Sciarrotta knew had been sunk by the Germans in Naples Harbor. The result of the mission in Newport at the Naval Torpedo Station was the building of the first two-man submarine as well as exploding magnetic torpedo devices. The submarine and original devices brought from Italy were placed in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Sciarrotta led the project under the code name Robert West.
Upon completion of the mission, Sciarrotta was offered a government position to stay on at the Naval Torpedo Station. Instead he decided to follow his artistic interests and develop his craft, creating art objects of copper, brass and eventually sterling silver, applying the same precision and skill to his patented designs as to his weaponry. He opened a shop in Newport and Margherita Russo, with whom he raised three daughters
The Work of Alfredo Sciarrotta
Sciarrotta's work is characterized by a sleek and simple style, and many of his smaller pieces feature his signature leaf-shape designs. During the 1950s and 1960s, Sciarrotta’s handmade silver serving dishes, bowls, candelabra, vases, trays, cigarette boxes, etc. were sold at the most exclusive American retailers from coast to coast, including Georg Jensen, Cartier, and Black Starr and Gorham in New York City; Bailey Banks & Biddle in Philadelphia; Gump’s in San Francisco; Shreve, Crump & Low in Boston; and many more. His designs became known as “The Wedding Gift of Philadelphia and Newport” and he was often referred to as the "Modern Cellini;"this was also the title used for his brochure, which was given to retailers and collectors and included in gift packages. Sciarrotta's work was commissioned for gifts presented by the City of Newport to visiting dignitaries, including President Eisenhower and the Italian President Giovanni Gronchi,
A selection of Sciarrotta’s work can often be found at Newport Lamp & Shade Company in Newport, Rhode Island. Please visit our website or contact us for more information.