Intaglio carving is the oldest form of stone carving, preceding the more familiar, relief cameo carving. Intaglio, carving into the stone, was used in ancient times to carve seals, which were used to identify property. Carnelian was used extensively for carved seals because it was attractive, hard, and easy to separate from clay and wax. Carnelian is a type of quartz. Its hardness is 7 and it is very durable. In the Mediterranean and Middle East, carnelian is also believed to ward off the evil eye.
During the Victorian period, both men and women wore intaglio carvings and cameos were very popular. There were many pictorial themes, and themes honoring antiquity were favorites. These earrings present the motif from antiquity of Warrior/War and Victor/Peace. The Roman gladiator is easy to understand as the warrior. The laurel-wreathed bust is more complex. Originally a Greek reward to athletic victors, poets and heroes, the laurel leaf symbolism was adopted by the Romans, and was eventually worn by only the most highly placed.
The sterling carnelian intaglio cameo earrings measure 13/16" across. Signed "sterling" on screwbacks. Very good condition. Beautiful, wearable jewelry from long ago.
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