Most mosaic jewelry has traditionally always come from Italy, particularly Rome and Florence, but it also comes from Switzerland and Naples. Even as early as the 18th century, visitors to Italy purchased micro-mosaic jewelry as souvenirs. It became a status symbol in other parts of Europe and America to prove a trip to Italy and mosaic jewelry would sometimes even be sent home ahead as a kind of postcard. With its roots in ancient architectural techniques, micro-mosaic jewelry was verypopular in Europe and the Americas throughout the 18th and 19th century and is still produced today, being considered a cultural treasure worthy of protection by the Italian people.
Generally, the finer and smaller the mosaics are, the older the piece. Particularly after Industrialization, the mosaic pieces became much larger and less refined. The best way of telling the age of the piece however is to look at the mounting.
Mosaic jewelry can be divided into two basic kinds:
1) ‘Micro-mosaic’. Here the jewelryis inlaid with a design made of small pieces of colored glass tube shaped tiles or tesserae on a glass or stone background, usually fixed with cement. (These small pieces can also sometimes be made from metal, marble or stone although not as often). When the glass tubes are cut into tiny pieces they are referred to as smalti. In the finest pieces, the design is created with thousands of very tiny colored smalti with no gaps in between. When the smalti is more than one color, it is referred to as ‘millefiori’ or “1000 flowers”. The expression ‘Millefiori’ is sometimes used to describe ‘micro-mosaic’. The glass for micro-mosaic is usually produced in Venice. Micro-mosaic jewelry has traditionally been produced in Rome. Micro-mosaic is actually a form of pontillism (using dots of color). It is a considered a derivative of the Roman Opus Vermiculatum mosaic style.