Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shell Cameos

European carved shell cameo set in 14k yellow gold. Love the flower in her hair and at her shoulder! So beautiful when held to the light!

Cameos tend to be one of the most collected categories of jewelry - and in my opnion, one of the most confusing categories of jewelry collecting! I will be the first to admit I know very little about cameos. I think they are beautiful, and I can admire the workmanship that went into them. I am able to tell the difference between a costume cameo and a real cameo. But beyond that? Well, it gets a little hairy. There are so many things to consider when evaluating a cameo; not the least of which: what is it made from? Cameos were made from a wide variety of materials: abalone, wood, coral, agate, bone, glass, shell, hardstone, plastic and resin to name a few. This post will focus on carved shell cameos.

The earliest known use of shell for carving cameos was during the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th Centuries. These cameos were typically white on gray and were carved from the shell of a mussel. In the mid-18th Century, explorations revealed new shell varieties which led to an increase in shell cameos. Conch shells tend to be soft and carve very well. Shell cameos are carved from a single piece of shell.

The Virgin Mary. Carved Shell set in 800 Silver with marcasites. Pin or pendant. Note the halo detail around her head - just lovely!

Shell cameos are usually 2 colors and have a thin, concave back with the exception of abalone and mother of pearl as they tend to be thicker. (information in this paragraph taken from ezine article "All About Cameos" and from Wikipedia). I have been trolling around on Ruby Lane and eBay recently for unusual cameos and have found several I really like. I sense a new collection. SOMEBODY STOP ME. SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Same cameo from above shown without back-lighting.

Both of these cameos are available on Ruby Lane!


electevey said...

Do you need to give up one collection before you start a new one???

Mind you, I would be able to stick to that sort of rule, but it's an idea :)

Mitzi Curi said...

I just love cameos, thanks for sharing your beautiful examples in this post. Cameos are really increasing in popularity, too.