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     Tim asked about this

22nd April 06


Is it stone, torquoise or..........?

Is it hand carved or machine carved?





   From Kerry

That is indeed, a very interesting bug, but whiIe you state  that it is carved turquoise, IMHO, it is most likely made of press-molded glass, made in a die-carved metal mold, and not stone.


Not only is it uncharacteristically glossy, for turquoise, but the brownish matrix strikes me as being simulated, not genuine and what seems to be an arching crack on the back, about half way down,indicates an incipient conchoidal fracture, almost never seen in genuine turquoise, but very common with glass.


I suspect if the item was removed from the bezel, you would find a mold seam right at the edge of the seal.


There are indeed, gem-carving machines, Tim, which use  either  computer, or pantograph control, combined with diamond bits  and ultrasonic frequencies which can reproduce a detailed cameo, or   intaglio in complete detail as small as 6 x 8 mm, but I am fairly certain that this is a nice piece of moulded blue glass, which would fit with a Victorian provenance



From  Tim

Thanks, you are right about the lack of undercuts, I agree that this indicates that it is indeed moulded.  I think I got the information about silver veins in turquoise from eBay so that probably explains why it is wrong :-)


The bottoms of the glyphs seem to show scrape marks as if they had been actually carved, but I agree that carving into glass in a traditional manner without leaving small chips on the edges of the lines would be all but impossible.  Unfortunately I don't think I can photograph that kind of detail.  The edges are however too sharp to be part of the moulding I think.  The fact that the ankh glyph is composed of a series of small dots rather than a simple line must give away something of importance, but I am not quite sure what!


There is no sign of suspension loop, pin, or anything else, just a clean band of metal around the outside.  This was something that puzzled me about the piece.



 From Kerry

Yep, you're right Tim, right after I fired off my reply, I realized the piece was probably late 20's or 30's, only later did I recognize the seal for what it was.


See how there are no undercuts on the scarab? 


This is because the glass had to pull easily from within a rigid metal mold, cut either from steel, bronze, or aluminum.


Most carved scarabs have undercut lines to delineate the legs, but these were brought outside the carapace, and somewhat flattened, in order that they might be shown.


Indeed, Tim, what I called the back, is actually the base, or seal.


What you call "silver veins", are actually margins of sandstone, also called,  "matrix", surrounding the crystallized nodules, in a genuine piece of turquoise, just as the supposed, "gold veins" in Lapis Lazuli are actually pyrite, or "fool's gold".


In this case, I imagine that blue glass beads, or melted chunks are suspended in a blonde translucent glass, melting at a slightly lower temperature, making not a smooth blended alloy of glass, but a sort of rough aggregation, or matrix.


I suspect it was press molded, and the flat mold surface had raised glyphs in reverse on its face, which when closed, embossed the soft slug of glass.


The other possibilities for the seal, if not, in fact, molded, are that it was resist-stencilled and then acid etched, or perhaps,  'twas stencil-masked, and then pneumatic blast-carved, with a fine abrasive, like for example, course Linde type synthetic ruby grits.


A carefully sheet metal, or rubber sheet stencil can be made quite finely, or the surface can be covered with tape, or shelf paper, drawn with a design, then cut and peeled, before

sandblasting. This looks a bit small for abrasive blasting, IMHO.


Tim, I would look very closely for a frosted, or pebbled texture in the cuts, bottom and sides of these very nicely done heiroglyphics.


Is there any fine chipping, where glyph meets mirror surface?


It's really hard to hand carve anything that looks like this, in glass, or in this small scale, fand as a piece of costume jewelry, or a souvenir, this certainly would not have been done entirely by hand.


Is there any sin of a pin, loop, or mountings on the back?


Where the modern Egyptian steatite scarab carver is concerned,

their glyphs are crude, yet on the whole, some very good carvers

are at work, but none of them could do this as neatly , on a

20mm bug, and steatite is far more forgiving than glass!


The resourceful glassmaker has shown great skill in imitating

many varieties of stone, most notably tiles and vessels, from

antiquity, but this scarab tis indeed, twentieth century, Tim,

Tut, or no Tut.


From Tim

 Thanks for your information, I can't get the scarab out of the mount without risk of damage, so I can't say whether there is a seam along the edge.  It is certainly polished to a glassy finish. 

 I am surprised to hear that it is possible to simulate the silver veins running throughturquoise, when you say the back, do you mean the base or the carapace?  There is certainly no crack on the carapace, though there is a what I thought to be avein running through the lowest register of glyphs on the base, is that what you mean?


The shape of the scarab itself may well be finely moulded in glass, the glyphs on the base are too sharp to be moulded and I am sure they have been carved, as I say it looks more like machine work than hand work.


 As for the 'Victorian' provenance - this is not correct because the glyphs are for Tutankhamun whose tomb was not discovered until 1922.  Prior to that he was almost completely unknown and he would be an unlikely candidate for a Victorian reproduction! 


 Would you agree that it is likely from the Art Deco period, 20's  30's?


  From Greg

10th May 06

Came with a group of amulets

Looks like faience.

Suspension hole

size = 18mm

What is it?




 From swordfish

29th June 05


What is it?



I know I have seeen similar somewhere, but I cannot pin it down.

A bit like some Chalcolithic pieces found at Jericho? 

On the other hand there are some Pre-Columbian terracottas which look similar.



 From Peter

29th June 06

I agree with you that this object shows great similarities with material from the Chalcolithic Period in Israel/Palestine. As I am however not an expert on Pre-Columbian terracotas I can not be dogmatic here, simply because there may be even closer parallels from that part of the world with which I am simply not at all familiar.

But an origin from say the 4th Millenium BC Southern Levant indeed seems an attractive option.


From Jason

30th June 06

I think it's Nayarit, 100 BC - 250 AD. Western Mexico.


 From Axel

1st July 06

This does not conform to any Pre-Columbian type from Mesoamerica that I'm familiar with.  The shape of the eyes is atypical and the way the mouth and nostrils are formed with crisp, deep puncturing, is not indicative of any style I am familiar with from this part of the world.

There are certain oddities and minimally cataloged types from South America, such round head figures exist in Colombia for example, but again, nothing that matches precisely comes to mind.  You have what looks like the torso of a naturalistic body formation, which would be quite unlike any of the Colombian types and pretty much rules out Nayarit figures as well.

Bottom line, it's not Pre-Columbian.




14th July 06

I have just remembered where I knew this from!







Such figurines have been found at Marlik.

The pics above and the text below are from the published full excavation reports.

IZZAT ALLAH NIGAHBAN & NEGAHBAN, EZAT O., Marlik: The Complete Excavation Report Vol. I Text and Vol. II Illustrations, The University Museum of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1996





 That all said, now look here!




  From tiglat-pilesar

4th July 06

37mm to 37 mm is size and its part of a bronze bell.

I guess its a Byzantine one.



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