Through March 1st, it’s Carnivale in Venice. The ancient streets are filled with music and dancing. The canals are thronged with masked revelers dressed in period costumes. The entire city celebrates. When I think of Carnivale, I think of a swirl of vibrant colors, peacock plumed masks, and… dazzling intaglio jewelry.
My personal connection to intaglio pieces runs deep. One of my most vivid memories from childhood is playing with my parents’ jewelry. They each had a jewelry box that held a treasure trove of riches. My mother’s ropes of pearls and dangly jet earrings were the definition of glamour itself. But, my father (a first generation Italian-American) had a vast cufflink collection that was a close rival. My favorite pair? Sleek, black intaglio images of horses.
What is an Intaglio?
In printmaking, intaglio is the process by which an image is created by cutting, carving or engraving into a flat surface. In jewelry making, the technique is the same, only the medium is a gemstone, shell or glass.
Although intaglios have been created from carved stone for thousands of years (earliest examples actually date from 5000 BC), the look reached its zenith during Victorian times. Glass intaglios became more affordable due to improved production methods. Suddenly, these exquisite pieces were not only available for the ultra-wealthy.
And, according to Extasia (purveyors of fine jewelry), “Queen Victoria may also get the lion’s share of credit… she had a series of charms designed and produced to give as gifts to her extended family and circle of friends every New Year.”
And intaglio jewelry has never really gone out of style since.
Intaglio Jewelry Today
From Elizabeth Locke to the absolute, utter genius that is Sevan Biçakçi, (if you aren’t familiar, look him up right now) there are some truly gorgeous designs available today.
But, if you aren’t willing to sell your car in order to buy a new bauble, I’ve found some “steals” at a fraction of the price.
First, the Italian Venetian glass intaglio ring, pictured above in fuchsia, is 18kt gold over sterling silver. This elegant intaglio artfully depicts Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, which is encircled in a nautical roped frame. Retail: Under $200
Next, the Italian cultured pearl and blue Venetian glass intaglio drop earrings, shown, are crafted of 18kt gold over sterling silver. Made in Italy, these stunners personify the ancient craft and feature cultured freshwater pearl drops. Retail: Under $300
Finally, the teal Venetian glass and amazonite bracelet, pictured below, is sure to transform any outfit with its sophisticated style. The Venetian glass intaglio bracelet is etched with a rendering of Dea Vesta, the Roman goddess of home and family. In between each vibrant glass piece is a green amazonite cabochon. The 7” bracelet is 18kt yellow gold over sterling silver with a 1″ extender and a lobster clasp. Retail: Under $600
All three pieces are available at Ross Simons. And, these are just the beginning of what you’ll find there. Intaglio pendants, brooches, rings… there are so many options. And, each is lovingly crafted in Italy with incredible attention to detail and impeccable craftsmanship. Gazing at their historical imagery, delicate scrollwork and luminous colors, it’s almost like a trip to Venice. Now, where did I park that gondola…
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