Castellani was the Italian jeweler who initiated the archaeological revival movement in the mid-nineteenth century. Castellani’s founder, Fortunato Pio Castellani, opened up shop in Rome in 1814. In 1826, he met his lifelong friend and collaborator Michaelango Caetani at a lecture where he was speaking about how to recreate the look of ancient gold. According to jewellery historians, Caetani “gave Fortunato Pio the idea to imitate and seek inspiration from Ancient jewellers.”
Caetani was a Dante scholar, a historian, a talented woodworker and an artist familiar with jewellery manufacturing techniques. He was also a darling of Roman high society. Though Caetani was never formally employed by the firm, his creativity and connections helped the Castellanis to prosper.
By the early 1830’s, Fortunato Pio had begun making archaeological style jewellery. In 1836, when the Etruscan Regolini-Galassi tombs were opened, papal authorities invited him to study the jewellery found there. In the 1840’s and 50’s, he and his sons, Alessandro and Augusto, were also given access to the huge collection of antiquities acquired by the director of the papal savings bank, Marchese Fiolanni Pietro Campana. While now dispersed, the Campana collection was then complete and at the Castellanis’ fingertips. They realized that the ancients created their designs by adding detail to the metal rather than carving, punching, cutting and otherwise deforming the metal to create an effect. They were able to recreate the look and feel of these Ancient pieces using granulation, wirework and other old-style gold working techniques. Such techniques had been seemingly lost for centuries until the brothers discovered a remote area of the Apennines where they were still being practiced.
The firm is also known for incorporating ancient, medieval, and modern intaglios and cameos, as well as Egyptian scarabs and micro-mosaics into their pieces. According to jewellery historians, the firm was the first to place micro-mosaics, often with Early Christian, Byzantine, and Egyptian designs, in archaeological style frames.
In the 1860’s, Castellani vaulted into fame as popular fascination with archaeological finds grew. Exiled from Rome due to his political views in 1860, Alessandro (the older Castellani brother) busied himself with marketing the firm’s jewellery abroad. First setting up shop on the Champs Elysées in Paris, he lectured widely on Ancient jewellery and socialized with Parisian high society, even gaining a presence with Napoleon III, to whom he presented a collection of Castellani jewellery. Alessandro also organized the firm’s first displays at international exhibitions: Florence (1861) and London (1862). In 1862, he left Paris after having an affair with, and impregnating, a married woman. He moved to London and, shortly thereafter, to Naples, where he set up his own jewellery workshop.
The firm’s designs continued to be wildly popular. At the 1867 international exhibition in Paris, “nearly all” of the jewellers featured Archaeological-style jewels in their showcases.  The firm’s success peaked in the 1870’s. In the 1880’s, the Rome location was handed over to Augusto’s son, Alfredo. Until his death in 1914, Augusto busied himself with, among other things, attempting to “document the progression of Italian goldsmiths art from pre-historical times to the present.” He suggested eight time periods: primitive, Tyrrhenian, Etruscan, Sicilian, Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and modern. Though his categories are not accepted as exhaustive today, it was one of the first modern attempts to divide the history of jewellery design into eras. In 1930, Castellani closed its doors when Alfredo, the last in the line of Castellani jewellers, died.