Piqué-work of this kind was practised in Naples by a small group of craftsmen including Gennaro Sarao (active between 1731 and 1770), della Torre (Turis) and Straca, who were patronised by King Carlo III and his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. They either signed their work or are recorded in the Dipendenza dell Sommaria accounts.
There are many references to piqué work in advertisements and sale catalogues of the 17th and 18th centuries. In his catalogue of The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, London, 1974, II, p. 838, Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue refers to the collection of 'picay' work formed by Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III, which included an inkstand and two snuffboxes all sold in these Rooms, 18 May 1819, lot 30, 25 May 1819, lot 67 and 26 May 1819, lot 17. Robert Adam is recorded as having bought three 'very handsome snuff-boxes of yellow and black tortoise-shell studded with gold...' on a visit to Naples in 1755 (see J. Fleming, Robert Adam and his Circle, London, 1962, p. 157) and later in the century Lady Anne Miller refers to a comb bought while in Naples in a letter of 1771: this city (Naples) is famous for a manufacture in tortoiseshell, which they inlay curiously with gold, and are very ingenious at representing any object you choose. I have had a comb made for my chignon incrusted with gold, to imitate an Etruscan border, copied from an antique vase, which is so well done, that we have bespoke several other articles...
The technique of inlaying tortoiseshell with mother-of-pearl, gold and silver probably originated in Naples towards the end of the 16th century. Judging by the number of contemporary references to the Neapolitan piqué work and the surviving pieces which bear the signatures of Neapolitan craftsmen, Naples would seem to have been the centre of production, certainly for those pieces made in the eighteenth century, although it was also produced in France and Germany.
A number of signed examples are in British collections, for example an inkstand in the Wallace Collection (INV. no. XXIIIA 35), signed by the Neapolitan craftsman Sarao and a tray at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, by the same. A cabinet in the Royal Collection, illustrated in Catalogue of Bibelots, Miniatures and other Valuables, The Property of H. M. Queen Mary, privately printed, London, 1939, III, p. 85, no. 6 bears the inscription DE LAURENZIF F. Very little is known of these and other craftsmen, such as Nicolaus Storace, whose signiature appears on a Neapolitan piqué inkstand, sold in these Rooms, 12 May 1970, lot 40, from the collection of Lord Rothschild.