Friday, May 18, 2012

Starting the signet

I know it doesn't look like much yet, but I'm trying my hand at making an intaglio in order to make a signet ring. It's slow going. I'm using jasper to match the stones I intend to use in the girdle. Jasper isn't the normal stone used for signets with carnelian, agate, and onyx being much more popular, but there is evidence the Minoans carved seals from it as early as 1800 B.C (at least according to Wikipedia, so take that for what it is worth.) Jasper is a type of chalcedony and closely related to carnelian though, so I don't think it's the craziest choice.

I'm doing the inverted seeblatt/krin from my heraldry. It's perfect as it is such a simple shape. Intaglio are basically the opposites of cameos with the gem being engraved. They're perfect for signets used for sealing as they leave a raised symbol in the wax. Gems from ancient Rome were re-used very commonly for signet rings, and signets didn't always have the heraldry of their owner, but I figured I'd give it a try. I haven't quite got it carved deep enough to leave a good impression yet, but it is getting there. I've been using a combination of new and old techniques. I mixed up a slurry of emery (I scraped it off some sandpaper) and used files which is the old way. I've also attacked it a bit with my Dremel. I actually like how the files and grit work to be honest.

To see someone that actually knows what they are doing, check out this video posted by the Getty Museum on gem carving. The artist is doing a reproduction of a Roman gem with a scarab on one side and an intaglio of a man adjusting his sandal on the other. It's gorgeous. 

I'm just hoping to not break this and get something sorta heart looking if you squint really hard.


  1. Oh, oh, oh, Oooooooohhhhhhh!

    Thank you!

    I have been toying with the idea of intaglio (of course) and watching you create your piece will help so much.

    Step by step details, pretty please?

  2. I'm trying to decide how hardcore about it I'm going to be. I've done a tiny bit of pewter casting and I'm considering trying lost wax casting for a fan handle and maybe trying to cast a ring, but that might just be me kidding myself. I've got a cheapo ring base from JoAnn's and I might just mount it that way until I can experiment more with casting at a later time. As far as the intaglio itself goes, I am using an already shaped cabochon. I drew the design directly on it because it is so simple. Then I'm basically doing what the video did; I applied a bit of slurry to the stone and am rubbing it into the design with either handfiles or my Dremel tool depending on my mood. It is kind of slow going and it took a bit to see more than surface scratches, but there is finally noticeable progress and I'm hopefully getting close to the right depth.