Thursday, October 11, 2007

Making a Cameo

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."

(Wikipedia entry)

A Sleeping Shepherdess in the Moonlight, second half of 16th century
Alessandro Masnago, ca. 1576–1612
Italian (Milan)
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.

Gemma Claudia

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")."

(Wikipedia entry)

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:


Lady N said...

I really like cameo jewelry too, I am always so drawn to them. I think its cool you can make a cameo similar to someone's face! I don't actually own a lot of cameo jewelry, only a cameo ring & a pair of earrings, which I LOVE!

WendyB said...

Great post. I'm trying to decide on whether to do a cameo for Empress Josephine, but I'm going back and forth on that.

WendyB said...

P.S. I would use banded agate with a black background and an extinct rose carved out of the white layer.


wow very unique pieces. The ring with the cat on it is fantastic and its so cheap. the quality of it looks so amazing for that price

Jennifer said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post on tuki and the others, they do have interesting lives

I love all the pieces you showed, I wouldn't even know where to start!

In Yr Fshn said...

Lady N: I don't really own any cameo either, but I believe I stand to inherit one or two someday.

Wendy: Question. Do you actually make your jewelry, or do you design and then somebody else makes it? Either way, are cameos very difficult to produce? I couldn't find much info on that. Your idea sounds amazing though, and, as with all your pieces, would probably be executed in the most lovely fashion!

Maverick: I agree. I chose the cat out of a sense of whimsy, but they actually had some very pretty designs!

Jennifer: Thank you! And I did spend the rest of the day looking everybody up from your post!

jen said...

i'm not normally into the skulls + roses + guns looking stuff but those outlaw earrings are really great.

Vintage Bunny said...

I love cameos too...Because my mother-in-law loved them too,I have built up an impressive collection.I did a post on the old blog but I cannot find it.
This is a funny story,my mother-in-law had given my husbands ex-wife some cameos in gold and of course my husband took it back when they divorced.They belonged to a great grandmother in the family so they are really old and beautiful but I refuse to wear it because "she "wore it!!
Please tell me I am nuts !!I am good friends with the ex so i dont know why I feel that way!!

WendyB said...

@IYF, I design it and someone else does it. The best stone carver are in Germany. That's where I'd do the cameo. I think doing it in a round shape would make it a little edgier, right? Because most of them are oval.
@VB, yes, you're crazy :-) If all of Henry VIII's wives were willing to wear the cast-offs of previous divorced/beheaded wives, you should just go for it :-P

krissy said...

thanks so much for including me!

that target necklace is pretty cute...i so wish we had target here in canada. i'm hoping someday i'll actually be able to know the wonder that is shopping is target.

Bobble Bee said...

I love this post with ALL my heart.

In Yr Fshn said...

VB: Not crazy at all! Henry's wives were crazy! Not you.
Wendy: Round is much edgier (oh, that's a pun!) and I think it would be amazing.
Krissy: It's a grass is always greener thing. I sort of love Target, in theory, but am oft disappointed in the reality. But the cameo they had was pretty sweet in real life. (of course I'd include you! You were sort of my inspriation... pushed me to finally get the post moving.)
BB: Thank you!!

emily said...

hey all,
i have a cameo necklace that was givin to me by my great grandmother when she died she was 94 years old and i am now 21 so it must be pretty old and it has a lady carved into it i just wanna no if its worth keeping for my daughter and how do i find out the value of it

Anonymous said...

Many of the cameo making/collecting folks meet on a yahoo group known as "cameocollectors". Although I only own a dozen, when I retire I plan on collecting many more.