Tesserae - These Tiny Glass Tiles Can Tell Stories

I am fond of all types of Italian jewelry. It is steeped in history and romance and the end result is often breathtaking. One style which is particularly appealing is mosaic jewelry. It is not only lovely, but it also has a story to tell that is very visible in the jewelry item itself.

Mosaics are made of small glass tiles. These tiles are called tesserae. When combined together, they can form an image - as simple as a flower, or as intricate as a building architectural scene.

Tesserae tiles date back to antiquity. In the earliest forms, small pebbles were used. This progress as the art form evolved but by about 200BC cut stones were being used in Roman designs. Throughout the ages, tesserae were made using a variety of materials, such as colored glass, vitreous glass, ceramics, or clear glass backed with metal foils.

Mosaics can be abstract with very colorful patterns which seem to simulate stained glass, but the most elaborate style of tesserae is in mosaic, pietra dura, and micro mosaic jewelry. Used this way, the mosaic becomes very figurative and depicts images in a true to life way.

The size of the tiles is what determines the style of mosaic. Many people refer to all mosaic jewelry as Micro mosaic, but this term, used correctly, refers to those pieces with very tiny tiles assembled into a picture. Larger tiles are used in mosaic jewelry. Much larger pieces of gemstone, often set in onyyx, is referred to as pietra dura.

Examples of Tesserae in mosaic jewelry:

This pin is called micromosaic. The tiny tiles are set into an outer layer of chalcedony and are tiny. Using very small tiles is somewhat comparable to using petit point in embroidery. The end result is quite elaborate and intricate.

This traditional flower design is made from medium sized glass tesserae. The result is a bit less intricate but beautiful, nonetheless.

In the Pietra dura brooch below, mother of pearl, jade, agate and chalcedony are cut and then set into black onyx. The design is much smoother than mosaic jewelry and is just lovely.

 

What is your favorite style of mosaic jewelry?

Carol Speake

Finishing Touch Vintage Jewelry


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