What is Intaglio Jewelry?

Carving in the manufacture of jewelry has been done for centuries. Who can resist the beauty of a stunningly carved shell cameo, or the beauty of a carved ivory item? The process is painstaking and gives layers of color and depth of detail to the finished product.

One type of carving which really appeals to me is that which is reverse carved - i.e. the carving is done from the back of the stone, or piece of glass. This type of carving is called intaglio. This term refers to recessed engravings on precious, semiprecious stones or glass. Intaglio designs are carved entirely below the surface level of the stone, leaving a smooth face with no projections. It is commonly called "reverse carved." The carving remains below the surface of the stone or piece of glass and the top is perfectly flat, so it wears very well.

Some intaglio carvings are cut in such a way as to create the illusion that there is slight relief. This is known as cavo rilievo, or sunk relief. One can think of it as the opposite of the cameo, where the design protrudes slightly from the stone's surface in sculptural relief.

Originally, intaglio designs were carved into shells, marble, quartz, and other hard stones. Glass is often a medium used, and designs are often floral with many having roses as the main feature.

Here are two examples of Intaglio Jewelry. The second example is from Trifari's popular range of zodiac intaglio designs.

Carol Speake
Ruby Lane Shop: Finishing Touch Vintage Jewelry


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