Friday, October 31, 2014

Vintage Micromosaic Jewelry

Micromosaic Bracelet c1920
Micromosaics are an intriguing art form. I could not imagine handling these tiny blown glass pieces ... called tessarae ... and transforming them into an interesting image. The technique has been practiced since Byzantine times and was popularized by the Romans. The height of popularity was during the time of the Grand Tours ... when members of rich European (and later American) families would travel around Europe, taking in the sights and cultures of different countries. Italy was a very popular travel location for these rich tourists where they could immerse themselves in the long and prestigious history of Italian and Roman arts and culture. Italian craftsmen quickly turned their already renowned glass making skills to making stunning miniature micromosaic pictures for their rich visitors.
Detail of of a Link from a Micromosaic Bracelet c1920
Victorian micromosaics were very intricate and generally featured architectural scenes or famous people. By the 20th century, the focus of the designs became flowers and geometric patterns. Early examples have minute tessarae, so small and flat that the image looked like a painting. As time went by, the mosaics became less detailed, even a bit crude in appearance. Early 1900s pieces also featured embedded wires and tiles set at varying heights, giving a three-dimensional effect.

The tourist of today can still find micromosaics in Italy ... however truly fine contemporary examples are rare.

Detail of a Pietra Dura Brooch c1890
Another form of mosaics that has been around for centuries is called pietra dura ... basically images made using stone inlaid mosaics that are finely cut and polished flat. While the technique has been applied for a long time in "paintings" and furniture, the use of pietra dura in jewelry is as old as the use of micromosaics. 

We have a very nice selection of late 19th- and early-20th century micromosaics ... and a couple of pietra dura examples as well. These are available online or in our Los Gatos shop. Typical pricing ranges from $39 for mid-century pieces, to $95 for early examples.

Micromosaic Jewelry
Selection of Brooches L to R: Crescent Micromosaic c1900; Pietra Dura c1890; Combination Micromosaic and Pietra Dura c1890.

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