Glorious glyptics: the art of carving gemstones

“There is no area for mistake it is not like a drawing that can be erased. Possibly that can make the piece exquisite,” states Claire Choisne, artistic director at Boucheron. She is talking about the historical art of glyptics, or gemstone carving, which is experiencing a renaissance as craftsmanship gets to be more sought just after in jewelry. “[Glypticians] can carve into incredibly fragile stones, these types of as emeralds, without having breaking them,” she points out.

Boucheron’s New Maharajahs collection, unveiled in January, functions glyptics in engravings of lotus flowers on rock crystal and mother of pearl. “I enjoy gemstone carving because it infuses detail and complexity in the jewellery devoid of including nearly anything,” claims Choisne.

Glorious glyptics: the art of carving gemstones
Boucheron Padma crystal ring, diamonds, rock-crystal and white gold, POA,
Nadine Ghosn Bon Bon Block, $6,395 (each ring bought independently),

Derived from the Greek phrase glyptos, this means sculpted, glyptics is the craft of engraving to build intaglios, cameos and miniature sculptures in important gemstones and hardstones. It is unique from the craft of the lapidary, who is concerned with maximising the sparkle of a gem through faceting.

Emily Barber, Bonhams’ jewellery director in the Uk, explains that the art of glyptics “dates back to the early civilisations of Mesopotamia, Assyria, Minoan Crete and Cyprus, where by the styles cut into the stones were utilised as seals and usually means of identification”.

Artists and artisans of historic Greece and Rome elevated carving traditions to a significant art sort. Glyptics was revived for the duration of the Renaissance, when portraits of influential personalities circulated in the kind of cameos. It achieved its apogee many thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte, who experienced his likeness incised in hardstones and launched 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 wooden, emeralds and diamonds, POA,

Glyptics is a important section of the Cartier aesthetic, both as apprêts — initial artefacts from the earlier established in contemporary creations — or as newly engraved stones. In 2010, the maison grew to become the only jeweller with an in-dwelling workshop and apprentices, guided by a Maître d’Art, Philippe Nicolas.

1 of Nicolas’ most current creations was exhibited this spring at Venice’s Homo Faber, a cultural showcase for outstanding 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 Artwork Deco that turns into a bracelet. Cherry blossom flowers of carved chalcedony adorn the bracelet and the lid, and the biggest flower at the leading doubles as a brooch.

But embracing this technique can have another, deeper function. “Having an in-house glyptician and atelier goes past the basic aim of which includes glyptic artwork in our jewelry,” suggests Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s director of heritage, image and fashion. “It enables us to realize gems improved, and it changes our way of doing the job, as the glyptic workshop doesn’t simply just execute models.” Glyptics also opens up new innovative avenues influenced by the qualities of the stones by themselves.

The art of glyptics can be applied to other supplies. On a Cartier fossilised wooden open up cuff that has two tigers going through every single other with fierce emerald eyes, it produces interesting naturalistic color contrasts. Cartier produces no extra than 10 glyptic parts a year, for the reason that they just take months, sometimes several years, to comprehensive. A Cartier carved aquamarine clock — intentionally still left in element unfinished and unpolished in a “non finito” procedure influenced by Michelangelo — also shows off the transformative influence of glyptics.

Jewellers are featuring glyptics a lot more and far more. Bulgari is releasing a tiara set with a dazzling 63.44-carat carved emerald to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee this yr, whilst Van Cleef & Arpels, which typically sets carved stones in its collections, is keeping an exhibition, “Engraved Gems” (to October 1), at its University of Jewellery Arts in Paris.

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

Pomellato’s most current superior jewellery collection involves a pair of earrings that feature carved jade built in collaboration with a glyptician from the town of Idar-Oberstein, near Frankfurt. This space, with its geological abundance of hardstones these kinds of as agate, amethyst, jasper and carnelian, has attracted and experienced some of the most proficient jewellery carvers because the Center Ages.

“Glyptics was a ‘special guest’ which we have reinterpreted with our very own aesthetics,” states Vincenzo Castaldo, Pomellato’s inventive director. “Those earrings have been among the first pieces sold from the assortment, as clients appear to adore it when we get out of our comfort and ease zone though continue to keeping our signature intact.”

At Homo Faber this 12 months, Pomellato offered a cameo pendant depicting Venus, carved on a big shell by renowned engraver Enzo Liverino 1894 in Torre del Greco, around Naples, the centre of cameo-building.

Glypticians, who patiently utilize on their own to finding out new competencies, who adapt their resources or build new ones, and perform all over a stone’s exclusive features, can turn any gemstone into a exceptional piece of artwork. Munich-based mostly Hemmerle, which has a very long tradition of setting 19th-century cameos and historical carved artefacts in modern-day jewelry, set two blocks of old carved nephrite jade resembling Leibniz biscuits in a pair of earrings with reverse-set pavé demantoid garnets.

Nadine Ghosn used glypticians to produce her playful Developing Blocks collection, impressed by Lego. “Each ‘Lego’ block is made of 5 distinct items of stones mixed,” explains Ghosn, who put in two yrs perfecting the approach right after screening numerous carving ateliers.

The collection embodies the importance of developing and making, and given that each piece is made to buy, “many customers have ascribed their meaning via the preference of stones”. As Rainero puts it, “when customers recognize the incredible factor of glyptics, they know that they have a thing unique”.

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