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Lawrence Winkworth, Dimitris Plantzos, Mauro Cristofani, Martin Henig, Mary K. Whiting, Nada Chaldecott, Ludvik Kalus, Paul Williamson, Alfred Bernhard-Walcher and Gertrud Seidmann

Engraved gems are gemstones, whether quartzes or the harder, more precious stones, either engraved in intaglio, as for seals, or cut in cameo to give a raised relief image. In a wider sense gem-engraving encompasses shell cameos and moulded glass-paste imitations of engraved gems.

See also Gems and Hardstones.

The use of gems, often set in gold, electrum, and to a lesser extent silver, in ancient Egypt is attested from the Predynastic period (c. 6000–c. 2925 bc). The Egyptians chose the stones for their rich colours, not their reflective powers, and the classic trio were blood-red cornelian, turquoise, and lapis lazuli. It has been suggested that these colours represent blood, vegetation, and water/sky respectively, and certainly the amuletic protection afforded by ancient Egyptian jewellery was as important as any decorative effect.

Cornelian pebbles could be quite easily picked up from the Eastern desert, whereas turquoise had to be mined laboriously in the Sinai desert. A list of craftsmen from a papyrus (London, BM) notes a ...




Gordon Campbell

[objets de vertu]

Decorative work in a fine material (e.g. glass, porcelain, semi-precious stones, silver or gold) that is attractive because of its antiquity, beauty and quality of workmanship. ‘Vertu’ (It. virtù) refers to a taste for curios or other works of art. The traditional form objets de vertu combines French and English spellings; as the Italian sense of ...