Glorious glyptics: the art of carving gemstones

Harmony Cardenas

“There is no room for mistake it is not like a drawing that can be erased. Possibly that will make the piece beautiful,” says Claire Choisne, imaginative director at Boucheron. She is conversing about the historic artwork of glyptics, or gemstone carving, which is savoring a renaissance as craftsmanship becomes far more sought following in jewellery. “[Glypticians] can carve into extremely fragile stones, these types of as emeralds, without the need of breaking them,” she clarifies.

Boucheron’s New Maharajahs selection, unveiled in January, features glyptics in engravings of lotus flowers on rock crystal and mom of pearl. “I adore gemstone carving simply because it infuses element and complexity in the jewellery devoid of adding something,” states Choisne.

Boucheron Padma crystal ring, diamonds, rock-crystal and white gold, POA,
Nadine Ghosn Bon Bon Block, $6,395 (every single ring offered separately),

Derived from the Greek term glyptos, that means sculpted, glyptics is the craft of engraving to build intaglios, cameos and miniature sculptures in precious gemstones and hardstones. It is unique from the craft of the lapidary, who is involved with maximising the sparkle of a gem via faceting.

Emily Barber, Bonhams’ jewellery director in the United kingdom, explains that the artwork of glyptics “dates again to the early civilisations of Mesopotamia, Assyria, Minoan Crete and Cyprus, in which the designs lower into the stones had been made use of as seals and usually means of identification”.

Artists and artisans of ancient Greece and Rome elevated carving traditions to a large art form. Glyptics was revived during the Renaissance, when portraits of influential personalities circulated in the form of cameos. It attained its apogee thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte, who had his likeness incised in hardstones and established a school of engraving in Paris in 1805.

Cartier Sixième Sens brooch in white gold, purple agate and diamonds, POA, © Cartier Maxime Govet
Cartier Sixième Sens ring in yellow gold, fossilised wood, emeralds and diamonds, POA,

Glyptics is a important aspect of the Cartier aesthetic, possibly as apprêts — authentic artefacts from the past set in modern day creations — or as recently engraved stones. In 2010, the maison became the only jeweller with an in-household workshop and apprentices, guided by a Maître d’Art, Philippe Nicolas.

A single of Nicolas’ most latest creations was exhibited this spring at Venice’s Homo Faber, a cultural showcase for excellent craftsmanship. A cherished box, about the size of an apple, the piece was hand-sculpted from a block of white opal and embraced by a geometric diamond-studded frieze reminiscent of Art Deco that turns into a bracelet. Cherry blossom flowers of carved chalcedony adorn the bracelet and the lid, and the biggest flower at the top doubles as a brooch.

But embracing this system can have an additional, deeper objective. “Having an in-home glyptician and atelier goes outside of the uncomplicated goal of which include glyptic art in our jewellery,” states Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director of heritage, picture and design. “It lets us to fully grasp gems superior, and it modifications our way of doing work, as the glyptic workshop does not simply execute patterns.” Glyptics also opens up new creative avenues influenced by the homes of the stones by themselves.

The artwork of glyptics can be utilized to other components. On a Cartier fossilised wooden open cuff that has two tigers experiencing every single other with fierce emerald eyes, it makes intriguing naturalistic color contrasts. Cartier makes no much more than 10 glyptic pieces a 12 months, because they choose months, occasionally many years, to total. A Cartier carved aquamarine clock — intentionally remaining in element unfinished and unpolished in a “non finito” system inspired by Michelangelo — also reveals off the transformative effect of glyptics.

Jewellers are showcasing glyptics extra and additional. Bulgari is releasing a tiara established with a stunning 63.44-carat carved emerald to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee this calendar year, though Van Cleef & Arpels, which normally sets carved stones in its collections, is holding an exhibition, “Engraved Gems” (to Oct 1), at its College of Jewelry Arts in Paris.

Pomellato Kintsugi Venus cameo necklace, POA,
Hemmerle earrings in jade, demantoid garnets, bronze, white gold, POA,

Pomellato’s most recent high jewellery collection features a pair of earrings that function carved jade made in collaboration with a glyptician from the city of Idar-Oberstein, in the vicinity of Frankfurt. This place, with its geological abundance of hardstones such as agate, amethyst, jasper and carnelian, has captivated and properly trained some of the most experienced jewelry carvers considering that the Middle Ages.

“Glyptics was a ‘special guest’ which we have reinterpreted with our personal aesthetics,” says Vincenzo Castaldo, Pomellato’s creative director. “Those earrings were being amid the initial items bought from the assortment, as clientele seem to enjoy it when we get out of our ease and comfort zone even though however holding our signature intact.”

At Homo Faber this yr, Pomellato offered a cameo pendant depicting Venus, carved on a large shell by renowned engraver Enzo Liverino 1894 in Torre del Greco, around Naples, the centre of cameo-producing.

Glypticians, who patiently apply on their own to learning new capabilities, who adapt their resources or make new types, and work close to a stone’s special features, can transform any gemstone into a one of a kind piece of art. Munich-based mostly Hemmerle, which has a prolonged custom of placing 19th-century cameos and ancient carved artefacts in modern-day jewellery, set two blocks of aged carved nephrite jade resembling Leibniz biscuits in a pair of earrings with reverse-established pavé demantoid garnets.

Nadine Ghosn employed glypticians to make her playful Making Blocks assortment, impressed by Lego. “Each ‘Lego’ block is made of 5 distinct parts of stones put together,” points out Ghosn, who spent two many years perfecting the system right after testing various carving ateliers.

The collection embodies the worth of setting up and making, and considering that just about every piece is manufactured to order, “many purchasers have ascribed their that means by means of the alternative of stones”. As Rainero places it, “when consumers realize the remarkable part of glyptics, they know that they have a thing unique”.

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