Gemstone Engraving Over The Passage Of Time

The art of gem cutting (glyptic in Greek) is one of the oldest testimonies to how installed, fascinating miniatures can transform gemstones into tiny works of art with immense charisma and magical significance. Decoration, symbols and magic formulae that still fascinate and have given gemstone engraving a special place in the cultural history of mankind. The use of gun drills and wheel technology soon enabled the processing of harder gemstones such as ruby, sapphire or quartz and enabled the production of more demanding images. Two thousand years BC was a golden age in this respect

In order to strengthen their power at home, Roman Emperors commissioned Greek stone cutters with the production of valuable cameos in their image. Dioskurides, the Greek royal cutter at the court of Emperor Augustus, processed the Arabian sardonix, the stone of preference, used to make classic examples of antique stone cutting, with great artistic skill.

The depictions on gems and cameos were cut into the stone using extremely fine drills and a crystal magnifying glass. The first “forgeries”, gemstones made of glass paste, also emerged in Ancient Greece and Rome. They were used in particular for precious golden jewelry or rings and pendants, perhaps because their usually blue/white or blue/black colors offered a strong contrast to the gold. Magic gemstones played a very large role; they were produced in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD as intaglio. They were small, powerful gemstones and jewelry stones with engraved pictures and inscriptions, which people wore as medallions, ring stones or sewn into bags. This form of amulet has fascinated people from ancient times into the middle ages, the Renaissance and even until today. Indeed, the world of science is increasingly interested in them.

Today’s main center of gemstone engraving, Idar-Oberstein, is closely linked to Paris. Young artists from Idar-Oberstein traveled to the Seine metropolis since the eighteen forties, and had made a good name for themselves as engravers. They were expelled from France as a result of the 1870/71 war, and they founded the still undisputedly most important modern center of gemstone engraving in their home town of Idar-Oberstein.


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