Cameo Stones: Hidden Gems in the Figge Collection
For the first time in 40 years, a fine selection of gems from a collection of more than 400 cameo and intaglio stones will be on display in the Figge’s Lewis Gallery. Donated in 1929 by Dr. Clarence T. Lindley, the cameo and intaglio gems reflect the changing ideas and prominent beliefs of society and became a popular fashion accessory in the Victorian Era.
More than a decorative art, gem engraving has served to document unique aspects of culture throughout history. Intaglio gems—the process of inscribing into the surface of a stone—were first used as stamping seals by tradesmen, rulers and warriors to mark ownership. They date back to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Using new hardstone materials, Greek gem engravers would further develop the intricate art of stone carving. By using the multiple colored layers of the stones, Greek artisans carved away the layers of material to leave a low relief form called the cameo. Unlike the functional intaglio seals, cameos were popular as ornamental jewelry because the delicate and sometimes elaborate carvings were highly visible. The small size and durable material allowed cameos to pass down through generations and survive hundreds of years to remain a highly sought-after jewelry adornment.
On view February 6-May 15, 2016