Many individuals are under the impression that a cameo is a type of gemstone. However, cameo is the caving method used on certain objects such as jewelry, gems and even vessels of some types. Cameo has the feature of a relief image that is raised. It creates a contrast with a negative image. Cameo achieves its effect by carving materials using a flat plane to contrast two colors that meet. The first of these colors is removed except for an image in the background of the contrasting color. Cameo creates a head image inside a frame that is oval. It can be in all sorts of mediums. One such medium is a photograph.
Cameos throughout History
Throughout the ages, much of the tone for fashion and jewelry has been set by royalty. It is believed by many historians that Queen Elizabeth highly favored wearing cameos. Catherine the Great owned an entire collection of beautiful cameos. During Queen Victoria’s reign, cameos became really popular. Pendants and various pins were commonplace against velvet ribbons of black while some were worn on satin ribbons in pastel colors.
Throughout the Victorian Era from 1837 until 1901, the came remained the favorite. A cameo is different from an intaglio. An intaglio is a piece that is carved under the surface. It was created before the cameo. A cameo is actually defined as a scenery or portrait which has been carved and has a colored background that contrasts. Cameos were created in the 19th century by craftsmen using coral, gems, stone, lava, rock, shell and some manmade materials.
Many different subjects have been used when creating cameos. Many of the motifs for cameos were goddesses and gods of mythology. Other subjects in mythology were also used. Maidens were often chosen that were draped using grape leaves in their long flowing hair. This allowed for much detail in the cameos. The daughters of Zeus were often subjects for talented carvers. Leda is shown in one motif where she is depicted feeding the mythology subject Zeus. Elements were often added to cameos such as bridges and beautiful trees. Naturalism enticed Victorians. Flowers were often subjects that were sought after by cameo lovers from the Victorian era. Modern cameo lovers often choose a floral subject for their cameo choices.
Many of the women of the Victorian era cherished a cameo made in her likeness. Requested portraits were fashionable while unknown women were often the subject of a cameo creation. Many cameo carvers created using shell or lava and could do so very quickly. Tourists loved the cameo creations and a demand for these was created.
Most of the subjects used for cameos have been women that have classic features such as long nose and dress in Roman style. Some have had upswept hair and an upturned nose. Many cameos feature tiny diamonds especially when being used as a necklace or dangling earrings. This adds to the beauty of the creation by the crafter.
The motif on the cameo can provide a timeframe for its origin. If a shell or stone cameo contains a classical scene, it may have originated in the 18th or 19th centuries when such subjects were popular. The anonymous woman on a cameo indicates that it comes from the Victorian Era, while the cameo habille did not become fashionable until late in the Nineteenth Century.
Physical traits sometimes reveal when a cameo was carved. The long Roman nose denotes that the piece was originated before 1850. If the nose is slightly upturned, it can be dated after the mid-nineteenth Century. A pert nose is indicative of the turn of the century. An upswept hairstyle indicates a late Victorian cameo, while shorter curls are indicative of the 20th Century.
The medium also provides clues to the history of the piece. Shell cameos were used during the Victorian Era, and later. They have a translucent quality when held up to the light. Lava came from the 17th century, but a large majority came during the 19th century from Mount Vesuvius. Jet gained popularity in the 19th Century in Whitby, England during the Victorian Era.
For the past 25 years, carvers in Germany have produced cameos using the laser technique. It may feel rough to the touch. To learn about cameos, it is important to handle them. This allows the collector to feel, and tap them slightly against the teeth to identify whether they are made of stone, shell or other materials.
Cameos represent a form of art that offers something for everyone. Victorian Bazaar will soon be offering an array of interesting and pretty jewelry cameos, so stay tuned!