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Gemspedia >> Famous Gemstones >> Real Cut Ups

Real Cut Ups

By Diana Jarrett GG

Artists have been cutting into gemstones of all kinds for eons. They have used the widest array of gemstones imaginable as a vehicle for displaying their creative talents. When the gemstone used is composed of several colored layers, all the better. This way, the skillful artisan captures a sense of depth in his or her carving. For this type of dimensional work, natural conch shells and agate work best. But daring designers have also used onyx , malachite and black opal for years. Cameos in these stones pop up regularly for sale at top auctioneers.

Photo: Public Domain captured from wikipedia

Shells offer artisans a variety of color combinations, but their size restricts the final outcome of any carving. Agate on the other hand is limited only by the size of the rough stone that a carver finds. So the bigger pieces of agate offer a larger canvas upon which the artist tells their story.

This concept goes way back. The Grand Camée de France is a first century work of art carved from a 5 layer sardonyx stone carved in 23 AD. It’s considered the Grand Poobah of historical gem carvings owing to its age, quality of craftsmanship and size.


Good heavens, it’s a gem-dandy of a cameo at 31 cm by 26.5 cm (12.20” x 10.43”).


Photo Courtesy: Helen Serras-Herman

These grand expressions are still being undertaken by ambitious and talented craftsman today. Father and son expert carvers, Dieter and Andreas Roth are set to exhibit their whale of a carved agate at the InterGem Fair held on October 2-5 th 2009 in Idar-Oberstein , Germany . Idar-Oberstein is the world center for classic gemstone carvings. And the Roth’s carving is said to be the largest carved agate plate known to exist measuring 49 x 36 cm or 19.29 x 14.17 inches. This plate depicts the Birth of Venus, and is modeled after the 19th century painting of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

Photo Courtesy: Andreas Roth

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