Micro mosaics are tiny mosaics, usually in the form of jewellery, boxes or picture frames.
They were first made by Giocomo Raffaelli in 1775 for tourists visiting the newly discovered ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum as souvenirs of the ancient Roman mosaics in those sites. As a result, they were at first known as “archaeological” jewellery and depicted small pieces of the ancient Roman mosaics.
Micro mosaics became particularly popular in England between about 1820 and 1860.
Most micro mosaics were made in Florence from small pieces of stone, such as malachite, lapis lazuli and coral. These were arranged on a black background, usually marble. The most common designs were floral. The best quality pieces were set in gold or, sometimes, silver with lesser pieces often being set in brass. Florentine micro mosaics were known as “pietra dura”.
Another style of micro mosaic, known as “Roman” or “Byzantine”, used small pieces of glass to create scenes of monuments and landscapes.
Less elaborate micro mosaics were also made in England.
Micro mosaics are still made in Italy as tourist souvenirs.