Simply put, a "cabochon" is a plain, domed "stone"—without faceting—which is rounded and polished on the top and (usually) flat on the bottom. The term refers mostly to gemstones, shaped this way to be mounted into jewelry. But, during the Arts & Crafts period, craftsmen made cabochons out of glass or glazed ceramic to be used as decorative elements (embedded in metalwork or woodwork). One of the aims of the Arts & Crafts Movement was to elevate the beauty of simple materials. In this case, a beautifully glazed, hand-crafted ceramic rondel could be appreciated as much as an expensive, precious gemstone.
Some of the best English ceramic cabochons were made by "Ruskin," one of the premier pottery makers of the period. They used Ruskin's wonderful glazes and usually signed the back of each cabochon. To this day, many English antiques collectors colloquially refer to all such ceramic cabochons as "Ruskins," whether they were made by the Ruskin pottery or not.
Ceramic cabochons also were used for jewelry during the Arts & Crafts period. They might be simply mounted in a silver band, like the example above. Or they might be set in more elaborate, hand-hammered copper, pewter or brass faces. A brooch like this would provide handsome and understated punctuation to one's lapel, any season of the year. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248