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All About Cameos

All About Cameos


The cameo is a jewel, or pendant, that has always been very well valued Although it has lost validity now it is still appreciated for being the symbol of a beautiful time for women. This jewel was once considered a precious gift.

All about Cameos

Cameos are carved in relief on a gemstone that usually must be an onyx, although it can be carved on any other gemstone that is hard and on which the high relief can be carved. The carving is done on dark-colored gemstones with delicate stroke figures. They are made using the filigree technique, i.e. with intertwined gold or silver threads forming a delicate figure.

The most suitable stones to carve a cameo are the Agate and the Onyx to take advantage of the different colors that show the layers of each one of these stones in such a way that when polishing and reducing the first layer the second layer is the background and the first one forms the high relief of the carved figure. Sometimes these jewels are counterfeit with glass and enamels by welding a stone or glass relief with another colored stone. Cameos are really the result of a very particular form of expression of sculpture. This expression and technique has also been used in the production of stamps, delicately crafted decorative articles, as well as in carvings of virgins and saints, etc.

History of the Cameos

Historically, cameos have had their ups and downs. Between the 14th and 15th centuries, they were made in mother-of-pearl in France and Germany and therefore became highly appreciated and valued by French royalty. After colonization, exotic raw materials from the new continent, such as elephant tusks and rhinoceroses, amber, jade, turtle shells and exotic seashells, arrived in Europe, and the cores began to be made from these materials by jewelers and craftsmen, which led to their low prices because they were considered imitations because they were made from lower value materials.

In the 15th century, they were once again moderately valued thanks to Lorenzo the Magnificent, but they quickly went out of style, although Isabel the First and Catherine the Great were hard users of these jewels, which were so popular at certain times. But it’s really in the 19th century that Queen Victoria made them fashionable with very particular characteristics similar to those we know today. We know that at one time the nobles used cameo carved in emeralds and rubies of moderate size carved in their rings. Between 1860 and 1880, in Italy, artisanal goldsmiths made gold cameos, bringing them back to life, bringing them from the classical to the erotic. The proliferation of earrings from the Baroque period, imitating the Cameos of that period, but in paste and glass, is the fashion. In the twentieth century was very normal to make cameos in 9-carat gold or silver.

Among the characteristics that a cameo must fulfill are the following:

  • Its background must be coral red black with high relief in cream or white.
  • Greco-Roman mythological scenes can be carved, although traditionally an effigy of a young woman or flowers is carved.
  • They were once used as badges by the Roman emperors.

How do I know if a cameo is authentic?

  • The materials in which the authentic cameo are made can be shells or natural stones, such as agate, carnelian, onyx, ivory, jet, bone, among others, so any cameo made in a natural material (not synthetic) is considered authentic.
  • A cameo is considered false if it’s made of plastic or resin.
  • If you look at your backlit cameo and it doesn’t have any scratches, damage or cracks, you’re looking at a cameo. Plastic cameo is very easy to scratch, although hard resin cameo is less easy to scratch. A striped cameo may be authentic but having any damage to its surface, however minimal, detracts from its value when it comes to appraising it.
  • The direction in which the high relief effigy of the cameo will go can also indicate a clue to its authenticity as the authentic and ancient cameo is mostly engraved in high relief with an effigy facing to the right, the second position it could be in is to the left, and it is very rare that the effigy is facing forward.
  • Features of the face. An authentic cameo has been sculpted with much detail where you can appreciate for example the natural curvature of the chin and mouth and usually the effigy has rounded cheeks.
  • Turn your jewel around and observe the clasp, if the clasp is simple, most likely this in the presence of a cameo This type of clasp has a small pin that attaches directly to the metal piece, without any other mechanism to hold it.
  • Some authentic Cameos are mounted on an 18-carat gold frame. It is also normal for them to have any other metal frame.
  • Plastic or resin cameos usually weigh more than metal, shells or mother-of-pearl, so a very heavy cameos is of dubious authenticity.

Cameos are currently considered as a classic piece of jewelry, so it is very important to take into account which base is going to be placed, such as pins, bracelets and charms, depending on what use it will be given to it, this can be used to give a delicate and special touch to a blouse, a handkerchief, a handbag, decorate the hand, wrist or neck of a woman.

When you are considering buying a cameo you should keep in mind that it must have a profile that represents a fine, beautiful and elegant woman, both the cameo itself and the base on which the cameo will be placed.