Carved Gemstones, Handcrafted With Skill and Love

Gemstone carving reached new levels of virtuosity during the Mughal Period and we are ever inspired by these meticulously carved master pieces. Our own collection of carved gemstone jewellery pays homage to this magnificent art which you can learn more about here.

Carved gemstones turquoise

Carved Gemstone Facts

  • Gem engraving is an ancient art form and is considered to have first appeared in the form of the carved cylinder seals of Mesopotamia around 4000 BC.    
  • The earliest gemstone carving was intaglio in which a design is carved in the negative below the gems surface.   These gems could then be used mainly as seals.
  • Cameo carving - in which the design is created by cutting around the ground and leaving the figure in relief - did not happen till the late Hellenistic Greek period when gemstone carving came to be appreciated for its ornamental and artistic value - rather than just a functional application.
  • Around 3000 years ago the carving of the prized gemstone jade was prevalent in China developing into a highly skilled decorative art.  
  • In ancient Egypt the carved gemstone scarab replaced earlier seals and these carved pieces were also worn as amulets.
  • The Ancient Greeks & Romans wore carved gemstones set in rings, as bracelet ornaments and as pendants.
  • Gemstone engraving became popular again during the Renaissance with the revival of all things Classical.
Carved gemstones

Carved Mughal Gemstones

Despite the rich and varied heritage of gemstone carving, our inspiration will always be drawn from the gemstone carving seen in India during the Mughal period.

India has a long tradition of hard-stone and gemstone carving & has been celebrated for its lapidary industries since antiquity. The skilful control of symmetry has been a feature of the gemstones cut in this region for thousands of years.

The process is highly skilled and the ‘hard stones’ are indeed hard requiring special abrasive powders and diamond bit drills.  The dexterity and craftsmanship required is immense.

These techniques were perfected over the centuries and reached new levels of virtuosity with the aid of imperial patronage during the Mughal Era.

Mughal Court Gemstones

There are some stunning examples of gemstones carved in the Mughal courts which are truly breathtaking, incorporating images of blooming flowers carefully drawn and meticulously carved.

Often designs for these gemstones were selected after consultations with astrologers, a tradition that persists to this day, with auspicious symbols believed to enhance the potency of the gemstone and inscriptions were added to immortalise lineage.

Carved gemstones

Sadly only a few examples of these renowned Mughal gems exist today. These include the Taj Mahal Emerald [pictured above] at an impressive 141.13 carats which is carved with lotus. poppy and chrysanthemums flowers and dated 1630-1650.

The Al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait has a 233.5 carat hexagonal emerald from this period, carved with leaves and stems and dates back to 1585.  The  collection also includes the Timur Ruby (actually a spinel and pictured above) weighing 249.3 ct and is inscribed on the front with the names of 6 Mughal rulers.

Also notable is the Shah Diamond [88.70 carats] from the legendary Golconda Mine and has the names of three Mughal rulers inscribed on its facets.

Many other examples from this era have sadly been re-cut and modelled due to the intrinsic value of the stones used.

Carved Gemstone Jewellery at Pomegranate

carved gemstone jewellery london

These fabulous pieces have acted as inspiration for many famous European jewellers - in particular Cartier - and, whilst we won’t be buying 100 carat carved emeralds quite yet, we buy and incorporate carved stones as much as we can into our designs.

Our main stone dealer is our principal artist and a massive inspiration - hand carving as he does, with his team of stone cutters, all the carved gems you see in our collection.

The Pomegranate carved gemstone collection features emeralds, aquamarines, rock crystals, fluorites, labradorites and moonstones and all of these pieces are one of a kind creations, carved in the way they have been for centuries and embellished with traditional floral, naturalistic designs.