Micromosaic Jewelry

The word mosaic comes from Latin and literally means “dedicated to the Muses”. Micromosaics is an ancient art that had a great diffusion in Italy at the Grand Tour period at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The term micro-mosaics or micromosaics was coined by the collector Sir Arthur Gilbert in the 20th century in reference to Roman mosaics composed of little glass  bricks called tesserae. The tesserae are mosaic pieces made from an opaque vitreous enamel called in italian “smalto” which is pulled into threads or “smalti filati”. Each landscape, portrait or scene depending on the ability of the artist is composed by hundreds of minute “tesserae”. Then, the metal or other supports are filled with cement upon which the tesserae are meticulosly arranged to form the desired pattern and the gaps are filled with coloured wax.

Basilica di San Marco brooch with red spinels

The origin of this art is in Italy and more precisely in the Vatican milieu where a workshop for mosaics preservation and creation was openend in 1727.

When the great works of restauration in the Vatican ended, the artisans  reinvented their work and  created souvenirs for the nobles and rich tourists who came to visit Italy and its historical sites in the first half of the eighteenth century.

However, mosaicists were considered  only craftsmen and for this reason unfortunately many of the ancient pieces are not signed.

Although many of these artists are unknown, the first famous maestro of micromosaics was Giacomo Raffaelli who executed a very beautiful version of the Doves of Pliny in 1779 that is exposed in the British Museum.

Doves of Pliny by Giacomo Raffaelli. British Museum

The themes of the micromosaics jewellery were first of all the ancient monuments of the classical period and  mythology according to Neoclassicism style, but also  portraits, flowers and animals.

A Micromosaic Plaque with the Head of Jupiter Otricolo by Clemente Ciuli, 1808. Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

I had the pleasure to interview Mrs. Chiara Tanca Bruschini and his brother Francesco who own the Galleria Tanca in Rome in the famous Via Coronari street. This gallery specialises in Art Nouveau and also in ancient micromosaics.

They confirmed me that the market is estremely lively and quotations can reach thousands of euros for the most beautiful pieces.

Since last January to 10th January 2021 there is a very important exhibition named a return to the Grand Tour from the collection of Elizabeth Locke in the Gibbes Museum of Art (temporarily closed) in Charlestone.

Butterfly micromosaic set in a gold pendant attributed to Giacomo Raffaelli (Elizabeth Locke Collection).

Parrot micromosaic set in gold as pendant with tsavorite and demantoid garnet. Rome, 19th century. Collection of Elizabeth Locke

These three pieces previously belonged to Tanca Collection.

Gold brooch with a micro mosaic plaque depicting doves

 

An 18kt yellow gold mounted brooch/pendant with a micromosaic set on copper representing a seated dog with a butterfly on a dark blue background. Rome, late XVIII cent.

Giorgian micromosaics suite in fitted box. 1820s

Micromosaics has fascinated also highjewellers. Hemmerle realized marvelous earrings set in aluminium and white gold using ancient micromosaic little medals.

The micro-mosaics are from 19th century specifically from Rome and made in 1828. They represent a typical italian landscape in Romanticism style.

I interviewed Mrs Francesca Neri Serneri one of the owners (the others are Camilla Bronzini and Antonella Perugini) of the Sibille  jewellery of Rome which present themselves as a Renaissance artisan workshop.

Q: Which is your bestseller?

A: The cube ring which reminds us a medieval citadel with its village, the church, the crenellated walls and the houses.

The bird ring that reproduces a detail from a fresco in the house of the bracelet in Pompeii.

Q: Why the name Sibille?

The sibyl is an oracle that communicated between man and the divine. The Cumaean Sibyl was an Apollum adept. She operated in a women’s club like us. She was a mediator. Our jewels are timeless, like a talisman. Gold, in Latin aurum has a thaumaturgical power and we know that crystals have a healing power. Micromosaic represents the four elements.

Our secret consists in the technique of the filatura and the stucco, a grout composed of linseed oil plus marble powder.

Q: In your opinion micromosaic jewels are fashionable?

A: In our opinion they will never be out of fashion and we try to give a spark  of beauty without indulging in easy fashions.

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