Six jewelers beating intaglio jewelry

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The opposite of its more famous cousin, the cameo, intaglio is a form of freestone carving that creates a depressed image. Whether reusing ancient Greek and Roman stones, cutting contemporary designs in modern materials or creating an impression of the original intaglio, designers use an ancient technique to create beautiful new jewels.

A form of glyptic art, intaglio printing is painstaking work on a small scale, usually with hand tools used with emery powder to achieve a sometimes stunning level of detail. “I was “immediately fascinated by the world of the minuscule that intaglio opened up to me,” says Zoe Monnier of Pierres Paris, “and their refined blend of art and nature.” Antique intaglio is often found in semi-precious stones such as cornelian, agate, amethyst and garnet, while contemporary artists have now started using synthetic and lab-grown gemstones.

Historically, intaglios started out as signet rings cut in mirror image, to make an impression when pressed into a soft material such as wax. Family coats of arms and portraits were historically popular, as were mythological and religious figures among the ancients, examples of which are still easy to find. They would usually have been set as rings in gold or silver, but many found on the art market today are loose, indicating that their original frames were melted down in hard times and the intaglio stone reused.

Many contemporary jewelry designers continue this tradition of reuse, such as Victoria Strigini, who reuses original intaglios in modern settings; or restoring and beautifying excavated jewelry, such as Loren Nicole. Others, like Australian glyptic artist Ryan Bowen, have mastered a pretty incredible art form dating back millennia, to create a new interpretation for our time.

For anyone enchanted by the history of these carved hard stones, there’s still time to see Engaved Gems, an exhibition of cameos and intaglio at the Ecole des Arts Joailliers in Paris. From Greek and Neoclassical intaglios to ancient and medieval cameos, through Merovingian signet rings and bishop’s rings, the items on display chart the full breadth of the art form of freestone carving for ornamentation.

Victoria Strigin

London-based French designer Victoria Strigini has long admired the antique coins and sculpted gems that have survived history, and continues the practice of repurposing old antiquities by purchasing and re-setting them in recycled metals. Her work is underpinned by the contrast between the meticulously detailed, hand-cut gemstones and the clean, disciplined lines of the modern settings she creates for them. The Oeuf en Plat ring is a good example of this: a small engraved stone is placed in the side of an egg-shaped ring, which rises from the knuckle in a soft dome. And to share the history of these stones even more widely, pieces are also available in recycled silver.

Ryan Bowen

Australian glyptic artist Ryan Bowen came to engraving gemstones through dentistry: “I have always loved gemstones and worked in the dental industry as a laboratory technician, using similar tools and skills. I saw an intaglio in a shop and thought that I’ll give it a try,” says the Sydney-based craftsman. Lucky he did, he now has a worldwide clientele looking for unique, finely crafted pieces. Using imagery – often rooted in fantasy – rarely seen in engravings, and modern materials such as yttrium-aluminum-garnet alongside quartz, amethyst, ruby ​​and sunstone, he tries to bring “the ancient art of intaglio of precious stones into the modern to draw the era’.

Pierres Paris

Designer Zoe Monnier came out of the art world to launch Pierres Paris, featuring Roman and Greek intaglio printing in modern settings. Intrigued by the history and symbolism of these miniature works of art, she decided to turn them into jewelry and launched her brand in 2016. In addition to repurposing antique intaglios she acquires on the art market, Zoe also offers unique intaglio prints, castings and the negative. of the clearest intaglio she finds in 18 carat gold in a continuation of their original purpose as seals. The intaglio ring above represents the Greek goddess of the moon, Selene, alongside a rich red garnet.

By Pariah

Intaglios are a recent addition to By Pariah, a London-based jewelery brand that celebrates the natural beauty of minerals and champions minimalist design. Founder and designer Sophie Howard was inspired by photographs of the Paria Peninsula in the Caribbean to showcase the treasures of the earth, and her brand is now best known for her hand-cut and polished semi-precious stone rings, with perfect curves and volume. and a contrasting gold seam. In colorful quartz, agate and carnelian, By Pariah’s intaglio pendants are equally elegant, with the horse gold Pegasus, and can be paired with a recycled 9ct gold chain.

Loren Nicole

Loren Nicole’s background as an archaeologist and museum restorer sparked a fascination for the history and craftsmanship of the historical objects she encountered in her work. “I longed to understand more about how the treasures on my desk were made thousands of years ago,” she says, “It was like reaching back thousands of years to learn from Roman, Egyptian, and Bronze Age craftsmen.” Today, she uses that knowledge alongside largely self-acquired techniques, creating modern decors with Fairmined gold and traceable gemstones for her ancient treasures, in her California studio, working without power tools, applying traditional techniques and manipulating her raw materials by hand. A clever modern update to the signet ring, this 22k gold rock crystal ring features a bee, which symbolizes wisdom, rebirth and hard work.

Hannah Blount

Like modern treasures concocted from an imagined past, Hannah Blount uses goshenite, tourmaline, moonstone and prasiolite as canvases for her imagination. She grew up in Nantucket, daughter of a fisherman and seamstress, crafting much of her childhood on the island. Today she works out of her studio in New York, creating sophisticated, whimsical jewelry for clients around the world, with her small team of artisans and her dog Beryl. These delicate, unique quartz studs feature elegant serpentine intaglio by Los Angeles-based glyptic artist Lala Ragimov.

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