Carving intaglios

Carving intaglios has been on my “to learn” list for years. Two separate people asked about commissioning pieces within a week, so the time is now!

Ancient artisans used a bow-driven drill. I’m using a flexshaft (a fancy dremel, basically).

You have to keep the stone wet, both to prevent breathing stone dust and to keep the drill bit from overheating and shedding its diamond dust. It’s extremely slow going, and difficult to see what you’re doing (between the water, the opaque slurry the drilling creates, and the tool in the way). You almost have to work by feel. I made the additional poor choice of using a tiny stones for my first practice pieces.

These are a little rough, but for first tries on a nearly microscopic scale I’m pretty pleased.

The perennial Roman favorite…

For those new to my site: The ancient Romans used phallic images as good luck, to ward off the evil eye. There are *so many* in gold, stone, bone, coral, etc. I’m sure the poor carved them in wood, too, they just didn’t survive the centuries.


I have a long way to go, but I’ll get there! I comfort myself by remembering that even super expensive Roman pieces with enamel, pearls, garnet, and gold are wonky as hell (see the example below, Georgian National Museum, dangles with 8, 7, and 10 wire wraps)! Perfection and symmetry are an aesthetic of the industrial age.

Realistic goal: 3rd Century, from a Sotheby’s auction:

Mindblowing skill: From Pylos, Greece about 1500 B.C. This whole thing is 1.4 inches long. See the stunning closeups here.

I will never be this good… .I am okay with that.

UPDATE: Someone fell in love with the kitty, so I did a little more work on her, and mounted her in a tiny, simple pendant (as requested).


About Sharon Rose, LAc, MSAOM

Acupuncturist, medical massage therapist, historian, scientist, road-tripper, geek, LARP & board gamer, food fan, Roman fanatic, belly-laugher.
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