The creation of miniature intaglios - or incised carvings - which could be impressed on clay or wax was one of the earliest crafts of civilisation.
To this the Greeks added relief cameos, while comparable skills were lavished on the decoration of metal finger rings.
These artefacts record subjects of significance for their period and place but are also the direct expression of an artist's skills and imagination.
Engraved gems were collected first by the ancient Romans and then throughout the Renaissance were a source for knowledge of `classical' subjects and styles, when they were copied - from Michelangelo to Rubens - by the foremost artists of the day.
The gemstones explored here are from a distinguished collection made in the earlier twentieth century by a notable connoisseur of ancient art.
Many originate from named older European collections and were previously unknown to scholars and collectors.
The authors have sought to offer a balanced selection of earlier eastern and Greek stones, alongside others from the neo-classical era.
The book offers a survey of the finest products of the gems craft over millennia.