Today is all about the cameo, a type of jewelry that I have long loved. Wikipedia has once again come to the information crisis rescue, and that link, as well as others, can be found throughout the post.
I know I'm not the only lady out there who thinks owning a vintage cameo can instantly transport her back to a time when the ladies wore them, right?
"Cameo is a method of carving, or an item of jewellery made in this manner. It features a raised (positive) relief image; contrast with intaglio, which has a negative image. The effect of "cameo" also refers to a proof coin that has frosted lettering and features, providing attractive contrast with the mirrored fields of the coin. The terms "deep cameo" and "ultra cameo" describe cameo coins having the boldest, most attractive contrast."
A Sleeping Shepherdess in the Moonlight, second half of 16th century
Alessandro Masnago, ca. 1576–1612
Agate; setting: silver and diamonds; 3 1/8 x 2 5/8 in. (7.8 x 6.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
"There are two main materials for Cameo carving; Shells or Agate (called a Hardstone cameo).
A cameo can be made of two types of material, commonly precious or semi-precious stone. One material is carved into a figure, the most common type being a profile portrait of a person's head. This is then set upon the other type of material which provides a background of another color to offset the figure. This is called an assembled cameo."
Cameo Set: Tiara, Brooch, and Necklace, mid-19th century
Cameos: Luigi Saulini; Designer of gold settings: Sir John Gibson, R.A.; Goldsmith: Fortunato Pio Castellani
Tiara: Toilet of Nausicaä; Brooch: Bust of Apollo (after the head of the Apollo Belvedere); Necklace (set of four cameos): Cupid and Psyche kissing; Discobolos; Cupid with the bow; athlete bearing a large hoop.
Onyx cameos set in gold
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Alternately, a cameo can be made from (banded) agate, where different layers of the same stone have different colours. Sometimes dyes are used to enhance the colours. Cameos are often worn as jewellery. Cameos of great artistry were made in Greece dating back as far as the 6th century BC. They were very popular in Ancient Rome — the Gemma Claudia made for the Emperor Claudius found its way into the Hapburg collections — and have enjoyed periodic revivals, notably in the early Renaissance, and again in the 17th and 18th centuries.
This visual art form has even inspired at least one writer of more recent times: the nineteenth-century Russian poet Lev Mey composed a cycle of six poems entitled "Камеи" ("Cameos", 1861), as reflections on each of the Roman rulers from Julius Caesar to Nero. in 1852 Théophile Gautier titled a collection of his highly polished, lapidary poems, Emaux et Camées ("Enamels and Cameos")."
Head of Medusa, ca. 1830–40
(Benedetto Pistrucci, (Italian, 1783–1855)
Red jasper framed in gold with white enamel and mounted as a brooch; Diam. of carving: 2 5/8 in. (68 mm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
I found it fascinating that both men and women wore cameos. In fact, my favorite crazy dictator, Napoleon, not only wore one to his wedding, he founded a school in Paris to teach the art of cameo carving to young apprentices!
Some more interesting tidbits about cameos:
-In the Hellenistic era young women used cameos as charms to express desire. A woman could wear a cameo depicting a dancing Eros as a seductive invitation to love. (Ed: Ohh la la).
-Women began collecting cameos to prove cultural status during the Elizabethan period. At the same time, tourist travels to the ruins of Pompeii were on the rise and women began collecting shell and lava cameos as souvenirs to remember their travel.
-During the Renaissance, Pope Paul II was an avid cameo collector. According to history, this love ultimately led to his death. His excessive display of carved gems and stones on his fingers kept his hands so cold that he caught the chill that meant his death.
Cameo intrigue found at The Cameo Collection.
Here are some options you could get your hands on, but please take heed from Pope Paul's untimely demise:
(I tried to mix it up a little and include some modern designs.)
Mother of Pearl Pendant Cameo, $175
Blue Agate Cameo Ring, $97
Pisces Pendant Cameo, $79 (They have all the signs.)
Hand Carved Marble Earrings, $ (These may be antique. I can't tell.)
Dominique Cohen Cameo Chain Necklace, $49.99
Outlaw Cameo Earrings
Rat Girl Goodies Cameo Necklace, $24 (By our very own I Heart Sensible Shoes)
These pins miss the point just a touch, but they are still cute:
Cameo Pin, $3
And lastly, you can have a cameo made in the shape of your sweetheart's face. Gareth Eckley runs a website called Portraits in Stone. The process seems fascinating. Here, he used an old photograph to produce a collection of cameos for the family of the deceased: