Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

Glyptic glamour

The ancient art of gem carving is alive and well in today’s designs.

By Rachael Taylor

Image: Pomellato

Should you find yourself in Paris this summer, a trip to “Engraved Gems,” the glyptic exhibition at L’École des Arts Joailliers, is a must. Glyptics refers to the art of gemstone carving, and the space is filled with treasures that collector Guy Ladrière has amassed — among them Greek and neoclassical intaglios, antique and medieval cameos, small sculptures from the Roman age, Merovingian signets, and religious rings. Some of the carved stones on display in the jewelry school date back to the first century CE, but this art form is far from being a relic of the past; it is very much alive and kicking.

Jewelers are increasingly turning to gem carving to add appeal, tell a story, or make their creations stand out. Some employ artisans to achieve slightly offbeat shapes, while others fully embrace the history of the practice to create miniature artworks. One such jeweler is Boston-based Millie & Noah, which works with German master carver Michael Peuster to engrave baby portraits into gemstones for its clients.

While some jewelry companies have the skill to create their carvings in-house, most seek out lapidary talent in the gem hubs of India or Germany’s Idar-Oberstein, or trawl the antiques market for originals they can reset in fresh designs. Cartier believes so strongly in this jewelry tradition’s future that it acquired the workshop of French master glyptician Philippe Nicolas in 2010, and now trains a new generation of gemstone carvers at its atelier.

Garden of Bliss earrings with carved Gemfields emeralds, diamonds, and micromosaics.


Victoria Strigini
Halo pendant in 18-karat yellow gold with a Roman carnelian bead dating from the second or third century CE.


Rose Carvalho
Mandala of Spirituality ring with a carved amethyst and diamonds in 18-karat gold.


SardonyxSardonyx cameo from France, c. 1550, on a modern gold brooch, part of the “Engraved Gems” exhibit.

BulgariJubilee Emerald Garden tiara in platinum with a 63.44-carat carved emerald center stone, additional emeralds, and diamonds.


PomellatoLa Gioia di Pomellato earrings in 18-karat gold with upcycled cameos, aquamarines, and diamonds.


DubiniPastoral Intaglio ring in 18-karat gold, featuring a Roman rock crystal intaglio from circa the second century CE.


Millie & NoahBespoke pendant in 18-karat gold and diamonds, with amethyst roller featuring hand-carved baby portrait by Michael Peuster.


Lion headLion head at “Engraved Gems” with chalcedony element for inlaying, from Persia between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.

SardonyxSardonyx cameo from the late 15th century mounted on a badge, on display at “Engraved Gems.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2022. To subscribe click here.

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