Shell Carved in Amber

Shell Carved in Amber

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Shell carved in amber. Made with CapturingReality.

This object refers to beliefs, superstitions and the hope of salvation of the soul. A jewel fashioned in materials to which the ancients attributed magical and beneficial virtues. The deceased of Cortil-Noirmont had brought small objects, jewels and an amber shell to the tomb. The amber shell is decorated with a winged capricorn carrying the funeral urn between his hooves. The rite of depositing these objects in the tombs was introduced in Gaul by the Romans.

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Follow the Ancient Amber Road

Since about 3000 BCE, amber found its way out of the Baltic Coast region to greater Europe and beyond, carried by traders and travelers along a series of routes, intersecting with the salt and silk roads. According to Anna Sobecka, an amber art expert with the International Amber Association, the resinous gemstone made it all the way to Egypt, adorning the breast ornament of Tutankhamun. Baltic amber has also been found at Mycenae in Greece, and in the Royal Tomb of Qatna in Syria.

While under ancient Roman power, the Amber Road took the form that's most commonly known today: running vertical, one end near Venice and Rome, and the other close to St. Petersburg in Russia. Other paths branched out from this main line, shipping amber all across Europe and into Asia.

“It is important to realize that the Amber Road is an archeological concept, and not a road name used by the ancient Romans,” says Anders Hammarlund, researcher at the universities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Uppsala. “The term was coined in the 1920s by the Cambridge archaeologist José Maria de Navarro to denote a set of trails or paths connecting the Baltic and the Adriatic during antiquity. Here, people have been trading since Neolithic times. Salt from the salt mines of Central Europe—sought after by the peoples of northern Europe—was exchanged with amber from the Baltic shores, which was then sold to Mediterranean peoples. This trade intensified when the Roman Empire expanded north of the Alps, and in some Roman cities the fabrication of amber art wares reached almost industrial proportions.”

Today, travelers can pay a visit to these former stops along the Amber Road, where there are still remnants of past trading and some monumental amber creations.

How Do You Tell If Something Is Made of Real Tortoise Shell?

To identify real tortoiseshell from material substitutes, apply a hot pin to a hidden spot. If the smell resulting from the hot pin smells similar to burned hair and a black spot develops, the item is likely real tortoiseshell however, if the burning smells like plastic, then it is not.

Tortoise shell is a material produced from the shells of tortoises and turtles. The hawksbill turtle is the species mostly exploited for the material, causing it to become an endangered species. Stemming from ancient times in both the West and the East, real tortoise shell was often used for items like combs, frames, furniture ornaments, and more. However, by the 1970s real tortoise shell use was officially banned.

To buy or sell real tortoise shell legally, it must be at least a hundred years old and a genuine antique, or had originated from a private collection. Due to the legal aspects of dealing with tortoiseshell, after the ban, plastic, celluloid, bone and horn become common substitutes.

With real tortoiseshell, there can be slight unevenness due to the nature of the shell that molded materials do not have. For genuine tortoiseshell, one can typically see very fine knife marks from where the shell was carved by hand.

The Use of Shell Money

The use of shell money is believed to date back all the way to the Neolithic period . There is, however, debate whether these archaeological cowries were indeed used as currency or functioned as ornaments. It has been claimed that shell money was used by the Chinese as early as the end of the Neolithic period. Shell money continued to be used as currency during the dynastic period , though changes occurred due to necessity. By the end of the Shang Dynasty , shell-shaped money was being produced in the north. As cowries were not so easily found in the north people replaced it with shells made of other materials including bronze, gold, and stone.

Over in West Africa , shell money is believed to have been introduced into the region by Arab traders during the 8 th century AD. It was, however, only later on, with the arrival of the Europeans, that the use of shell money became widespread in the region.

The Portuguese, French, British, and Dutch who arrived in West Africa noticed that some of the tribes were fond of these shells and therefore encouraged its use as currency. Moreover, as these European powers possessed colonies in areas where cowries are found, they were able to bring shell money to West Africa in large quantities. In exchange for this shell money, these West African tribes provided the Europeans with slaves, gold, and other commodities.

Print showing cowrie shell money being used by an Arab trader. (Andy king50 / Public Domain )

About Cameos

At The Cameo Collection, you may find cameos made of the following materials:

The carnelian shell is the shell most frequently used for cameo carving. In color, carnelian shells are a low-intensity peach or orange color, offering contrast between foreground and background colors.

The sardonyx shell has a thick outer wall and a dark brown interior, and when carved it can resemble marble. Cameos carved in sardonyx shells are distinctive in color with a dark brown background and white foreground, and frequently cost more because the shells are rare.

Some cameos are carved in mother-of-pearl, producing a cameo of an opalescent, bluish-gray color. These cameos are best set in silver.

Our Agate cameos are carved ultrasonically. Blue or green in color, these cameos come from Germany and have a more modern look, despite the fact that agate has been used for cameos for centuries.

Many of the cameos are set in sterling silver or burnished silver. Others are set in 14K gold. The shell cameos, imported from Italy, are all signed on the back by the master carver Gennaro Borriello who owns the studio. Master carvers will sign the cameo on the front of the carving.

Thanks to Anna M. Miller’s book Cameos Old & New for shell information.

Cameo Artisans

Education of the Infant Bacchus, Sardonyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Henry IV & Marie de Medici,
c.1880, Jasper.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Portrait of Mrs. G. Steward.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Born in Vienna – Hungarian parents

Vulcan's Forge Vulcan, his wife Venus, her lover Mars and Cupid with two Doves.
c.early 19th Century, Sardonyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

The Fall of Phaeton,
c.1876, Onyx.

Portrait of Bacchus
c.1840-50. Sardonyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

The Minerva of Aspasios (Styled after an engraved gem by a Greek artist, Aspasios.)
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Profile Bust – Possibly Horatio Greenough
c. 1850.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Boston MA

Profile of Alexander
c. 1790, Onyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Portrait of Queen Victoria
c.1855, Sardonyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Portrait of Georg John, 2nd Earl Spencer
c. 1781, Cornelian.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Laureate Head of a Youth, Intaglio,
c.1726-1775, Sard.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Roman Bust (Vespasian?)
c. 18th century, Onyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Portrait Bust of George III
c. 1816, Sardonyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Alexandra, Princess of Wales,
c. 1870, Shell.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Bracelet with Venus, Medusa & Hymen
c. 1850 Onyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Henry Somerset, 7th Duke of Beaufort,
c. 1850, Onyx.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

Sketched his subjects’ first (sometimes from a photo taken by a nearby photographer who worked with Saulini.) Very talented hardstone carver (trained by his father Tommasso (1784-1864) continuing the family trade) also carved less expensive shell cameos. He used sculptures/statues as inspiration.

Helmeted Warrior (Minerva?)
c. 1900, Opal (attributed)
© Trustees of the British Museum.


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The wear results on the left demonstrate protection with Shell V-Power NiTRO+, the one on the right by a lower quality premium gasoline. Wear results obtained using ASTM D6079 comparing Shell V-Power NiTRO+ with lowest additive concentration (LAC) gasoline. Results depicted may not reflect what consumers see in their vehicles under normal driving conditions

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What Is Amber Made Of?

Solidifying of the resin into stone happened over many, many thousands of years. If you are wondering what is amber made of, it is made from this resin.

The resin gradually moved over time from the pine forests and ended up close to the coastal regions, but from the coastal regions the resin again moved.

It ended up in the bottom of the sea where it fossilized.

Much later it was brought to the surface by glaciers and deposited on the land, where it has been found since that time.

Blue Amber

All of this process happened many thousands of years ago, evidenced by the fact that Baltic Amber jewelry dates back to well before Christ.

Celtic Amber jewelry has been found, made from beautiful Amber stone. It is common to find these ideas from the past replicated in Amber jewelry sold these days.

Many beautiful pieces are made with similar designs, and genuine Baltic Amber jewelry is now quite easy to buy.

These pieces are beautiful jewelry pieces as well as having an excellent action to aid personal healing in a number of ways, as well as being beneficial to help you to manifest money.

Different Tests to Identify Fake Amber

Different tests can be done to determine whether or not the amber you are purchasing or already have is real. Smell is said to be the most effective way to differentiate the two, as Amber has a specific pine-tree smell when burned. However, if you want to avoid burning your jewelry, here are some tests that you can do to determine if your amber piece is the real deal or a convincing fake:

1. The Salt Water Test (Easiest & Most Effective):

This test is extremely easy and effective. All you have to do is mix two cups of warm water with a quarter cup of salt in a bowl, then stir the mixture until the salt has completely dissolved. Once you have done this, place the piece of amber in the solution. If the piece of amber floats to the top then it is indeed authentic amber.

2. The Rubbing Test (Simple & No Mess):

One of the easiest methods, when you rub real amber on the palm of your hand, it is said to give off its iconic smell. This occurs due to the heating effect produced by friction between your hand and the amber piece. If you employ this method and there is no pine-tree scent, then your amber piece is most likely not authentic.

3. The Feel Test (Straightforward & Super Easy):

Genuine amber is lightweight and slightly warm to the touch. This is due to it being underground for millions of years and because of its chemical composition. You can distinguish fake amber that is made of glass from the real thing because glass is harder, cooler, and heavier than authentic amber.

4. The Hardness Test (Quick & Uncomplicated):

Another important and easy way to check your amber piece is by checking its hardness. By conducting this test, you can immediately determine whether the amber piece is real or not. Genuine amber is relatively soft. Most fakes are either hard solids or have that plastic feel to them. With small beads, all you have to do is press them between your thumb and index finger.

5. UV Test (No Experience Needed):

If you have spent a lot of money on buying amber, this is the best test for you. For this, you will need a UV lamp. Amber has a kind of blue or green color when placed under a UV light. Therefore, if your amber piece shows up as another color when placed under the light, it is not true amber.

6. The Hot Needle Test (Best Done by Amber Experts):

This is a test is mainly used to check for plastic fakes. If you insert a hot needle into a plastic object, it will melt, however, if the object is made of real amber it will begin to crack. However, to distinguish the piece from other materials, make sure to smell the piece you have, and if it smells of pine-tree resin, it is probably genuine amber.

Note: Avoid conducting this test on small amber beads, as it may destroy the bead completely.

7. The Heating Test (Best Done by Amber Experts):

This test is mostly used to check if the amber piece contains any other materials. Natural ambers contain small bubbles in its microscopic structure. When you apply heat to amber, these bubbles evaporate making the amber piece transparent. The higher the temperature, the darker the amber becomes.

Note: Do not conduct this test on small amber beads, as they will melt completely.

Amber is a natural healing stone. To synthesize and create fakes of the original only goes towards making it difficult for those who seeking help. The gemstone is also used as a catalyst for spiritual healing, thereby making it an important part of many people’s lives.

This is the reason why you should be careful when picking out amber for yourself or someone. Not only could someone be over-charging you for a fake, but you could also be unknowingly buying something that does not possess healing properties.

While the tests we’ve mentioned in this article are great for amber you’ve purchased, it’s also wise to have amber pieces you’re considering buying checked by a professional. We also suggest buying amber pieces from merchants who can guarantee you a certificate of authenticity with any purchase. At the end of the day, you have to invest your time, money, and effort in the right purchase.

For further reading

Cunningham, Lawrence J. and Janice J. Beaty. A History of Guam. Honolulu: The Bess Press, 2001.

Feldman, Jerome and Donald H. Rubinstein. The Art of Micronesia: The University of Hawaii Art Gallery. Essays by Jerome Feldman and Donald H. Rubinstein. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Department of Art and Partners, c.1986.

Flores, Judy. “Art and Identity in the Mariana Islands: Issues of Reconstructing an Ancient Past.” PhD Thesis, Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, 1999. Manuscripts are available at the University of Guam Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center and at Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Freycinet, Louis Claude de Saulses de. An Account of the Corvette L’Uraine’s Sojourn at the Mariana Islands, 1819. Translated by Glynn Barratt. Saipan, CNMI: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Historic Preservation and the University of Guam Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, 2003.

Kihleng, Kimberlee S. and Nancy P. Pacheco, eds. Art and Culture of Micronesian Women: Catalog of Interpretive Exhibition Presented by Isla Center for the Arts and the Women and Gender Studies Program at the University of Guam, April 13 through May 22, 2000. Mangilao, GU: Isla Center for the Arts and Women & Gender Studies Program, University of Guam, 2000.

Watch the video: Handmade Amber Carving Processing Video CCD Jewelry (May 2022).