Wednesday 12 May 2010

About Cameo Jewellery & Cameos of Today

This blog is about cameo jewellery and cameos of today information and history. Cameos have been around since ancient times and are still being produced today. They reflect classical history, artistic imagination, literature and fashion of the day amongst many other subjects.

Pendant ornament with cameo, Italian 1550 - 1600
Reproduced by gracious permission of  her Majesty The Queen
Central cameo 13 century or later? Italian. Enamel decoration, precious stones & semi precious onyx. Surround cameos added in the 16th & 18th century.
Royal Windsor Collection 
City of Birmingham Museum and Art gallery Exhibition of gemstones and jewellery catalogue, 1960.

A cameo does not have to be made from shell or a semi precious materials to be a real cameo. In terms any material that is produced with the raised profile or image that projects above the background of the stone is correct and truthfully can be called a cameo.

 Both vintage cameos. Top vintage shell cameo 1940s Below vintage cameo brooch signed Sphinx
cameo brooch we have available on Jewels & Finery UK. 

So cameos produced of shell both hand carved and machine carved, semi precious stones like quartz, malachite, onyx, jasper and lapis lazuli to name a few. Opal and moonstone are relatively new semi precious materials used to produce a cameo. Hard stone was first used in production but other natural made materials include jet, coral, ivory, lava and bone were used in abundance. Glass, ceramic and china is still widely used and also many forms of plastics. Bakelite, galalith and celluloid are early forms of plastic and in their day were seen as cheap options; but now their prices are rising and are very collectible. The Queen has a fabulous collection of cameo jewellery many in precious gems such as diamonds.

Cameo Parure of the Empress Josephine. French.
The parure consisted of a crown, a lesser cornal, ear rings, bracelet, slide and comb. All set with cameos in gold, decorated with blue enamel. Crown, comb and clasp are set with carnelians, the rest with onyx and shell. BC Museum and Art Gallery, Exhibition of gemstones and jewellery catalogue, 1960.      

Cameo were produced firstly by hand carving but when machines became a way to increase production they are were molded, cast, stamped or carved. However hand carved cameo production still continues today. Always view a shell cameo with a lens or magnifier. Hand carved cameos do not have the minute "snow effect" around the edge of the profile where it joins the background, which machine or ultrasonically produced "carved" cameos have. Today fashion cameos used in jewellery, tend to be the one recognizable profile which I have christened  "The Popular Goddess" mass produced in many different forms of fashion or costume jewellery or used as embellishment on shoes, clothes and furnishing.

The Popular Goddess cameo bracelet - pre owned jewellery on Jewels and Finery SOLD

Fashion has seen cameo jewellery raise in popularity in the Victorian era until the fifties and sixties. It waned in fashion in the seventies but has never gone away - as there has always been a minority that love and wear cameos. Which has meant that cameos have continued in production to today.   

Cameo collecting is very much personnel taste, many collect just shell cameo and others jet and lava. But there is a growing number who collect plastic and glass cameos. It does not have to be a collection that has large monetary or investment value of today. Fashion will influence the value of antiques (items over 100 years old) and vintage (any item about 25 years old to a hundred) So what is bought at a high price today may depreciate in value in a few years. And of course the reverse happens - items that are of low value in their times, lava and early plastics for example have in relatively few years command a high value now.

D & E vintage cameo jewellery taken from Juliana Jewelry Reference DeLizza & Elster, identification and value guide by Ann Pitman (previously reviewed on this blog)

Vintage cameo jewellery that is of glass and plastic produced by designer and manufacturers: for example D & E and Sphinx, are commanding quite high prices in today's market. But it could easily be Exquisite, Hollywood or the mass produced cameo The Popular Goddess" in the future Who can predict?

Collecting is up to the individual and should be fun and affordable to each individuals taste.

The Reicharts cameo factory manufacturing a broad range of colours in ultrasonically created cameos.
Cameos Old and New 4th Edition by Anna M Miller (Previously reviewed on this blog) 


  1. What beautiful cameos you have! I love using mine in pendants for special people.

  2. I have a cameo brooch which has a beautiful blue agate background. I think it's probably from about the 1980's, I bought it when a local jewellery shop was closing down. Under magnification you can see tiny freckles and the shine of the quartz. It is a very detailed version of the 'goddess' quite a young girl/woman with a necklace and earrings and flowers in the hair. It is in 9ct gold and I had a bale put on so it can be worn as a pendant. However that doesn't work very well because it tends to turn over in wear. There is a maker's mark and symbol visible under high magnification. To me it is a little work of art!I bought some cameo earrings on Capri but they are a deeper blue.


About Me

My photo
Solihull, West Midlands, United Kingdom
I preserve the past. Researching family and local history. Finding about mine and other people's ancestors, is just one of my passions. I also love vintage costume jewellery made here in the UK. I write about my finds and like to research.