Stone types, cuts and symbolism in the middle ages
A wide range of stones were available and used in Medieval jewellery. In the earlier years the stones used were mostly in Cabochon form but as stone cutting became more refined different cuts were introduced that showed the stones at their best. This seems to have happened mostly in the 14th and 15th century in the main cutting centres of Antwerp, Bruges, lisbon and Paris.
Sources for stones
Diamond - India
Ruby - Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan
Sapphire - Sri Lanka, Burma
Emerald - Egypt, Austria
Spinel - Burma
Peridot - Egypt
Garnet - Bohemia, Sri Lanka
Opal - Czech
Amethyst, Citrine, Rock crystal - Bohemia, Germany and Madagascar
Carnelian and Agate
Lapis Lazuli - Afghanistan
Turquoise - Persia and Sinai
Pearls - Red sea, Persian Gulf
River pearls - Scotland, Ireland, Bavaria
Amber - Baltic
Jet - England, Spain
Coral - Mediterranean coast, North Africa
Impressions made from the stamping of decorative iron punches.
Linear decoration cut with files, but more often with sharp pointed engraving tools.
A chisel shaped tool is tapped a rough casting to sharpen up the line.
Thin sheets of metal are laid over pitch and using punches to push the metal down, the design is formed in relief on the underside. The design is usually chased on the front first.
Thin decorative plaques made by using a die over which thin sheet metal is forced, so that it takes on the design from the die. (plates on the Sutton Hoo helmet)
Lengths of gold or silver wire are twisted or beaded and laid on the surface of the metal to form the decoration.
Silver or gold beads are formed in powdered charcoal and laid on the surface of the metal to form the decoration. It is then heated until the surfaces fuse together. Often used with filigree.
Gilding (mercury or fire gilding)
The gold is dissolved by putting leaf into boiling mercury, the amalgam is then painted on to the surface to be gilded; then heated till the mercury boils off and leaves a coating of gold.
Covering the metal surface with a layer of tin.
A shiny black substance created by mixing copper, silver and sulphur. It contrasts well with silver and was used to great effect in the ninth century where it was laid in to the recesses on engraved lines.
Fusing glass to the surface of the metal. Enamells were applied by grinding the glass in water and laying the paste in to the area to be decorated. When the paste is dry it is heated until it fuses to the metal surface.
The garnets were sliced in to thin plates which were then cut into geometric shapes and placed in cells, forming lattice like designs separated by metal walls. Shown to great effect in Anglo Saxon jewellery.