I’ve encountered many origins of the phrase “cameo” and discover little foundation in most. One origin states the phrase “cameo” is Italian for “engrave.” I’m not conscious of any Italian phrase for “engrave” or “carve” or “scratch” that even intently resembles the phrase “cameo.”
The Italian phrase for cameo is cammeo. Different sources have indicated the phrase “cameo” is derived from the previous French phrase camaieu or the previous Latin phrase cammaeus, or khamea from the traditional Arabic phrase for amulet.
Whereas the origins of the phrase could but stay a thriller, the historical past of cameos and their reputation are effectively documented.
Roman creator and thinker Pliny the Elder (23 to 79 A.D.) wrote about glass cameos as costume jewellery for many who couldn’t afford cameos carved from gems or semiprecious stones equivalent to agate.
Cameos, nevertheless, have been identified lengthy earlier than Pliny’s time. The traditional Egyptians and Mesopotamians carved cameos as way back as 5 thousand years; these have been carved in stone and later composed of glass.
Shell cameos, comparatively new within the historical past of cameos, turned common six- to seven-hundred years in the past in the course of the Renaissance however the peak of their reputation occurred in the course of the Victorian period. Victorians, particularly British Victorians, have been enamored of Italy and all issues Italian together with cameos. Vacationers to Italy purchased and wore cameos as an indication of their standing.
The overwhelming majority of Victorian cameos depict the profile of a lady with intricately organized hair and probably a diamond. Cameos depicting ladies with jewellery equivalent to a necklace, bracelet, earring or diadem are often known as habillé, which implies “dressed,” “clad” or “dressy.” Habillé cameos turned common in the course of the 1840s.
For rich English Victorians the “Grand Tour” was de rigueur and Italian cameos have been the one must-have merchandise with which they returned dwelling. In a really quick period of time the English now not needed to journey to amass cameos, which have been imported, unmounted, into England by the 1000’s.
Even Queen Victoria succumbed to the great thing about cameos and routinely wore them, and what Queen Victoria did, everybody did – on each side of the Atlantic Ocean. No middle- or upper-class lady’s equipment have been full with out a cameo of some kind.
Cameos throughout and earlier than the Victorian period displayed allegorical, mythological, historic or non secular photographs. Gods and goddesses, rulers, historic scenes, biblical scenes, Roman troopers and delightful ladies have been topics for cameos, which have been worn by women and men. Later, in the course of the Victorian period, cameos depicting a feminine’s profile have been favored and worn by males as watch fobs, stickpins, rings and cuff hyperlinks whereas ladies wore cameos as brooches, rings, earrings, pendants, and bracelets.
Initially the phrase “cameo” referred to reduction photographs of contrasting colour however in the present day embody single-color items manufactured from onyx, coral, carnelian, jet, ivory, bone, turquoise, amethyst, malachite, mom of pearl and lava, which isn’t truly lava however grey, brown, white or putty-color igneous rock equivalent to felsite, rhyolite, basalt, or andesite.
Glass, hardstone, and shell are the commonest supplies used for cameos with shell, surprisingly, reasonably current within the historic timeframe; glass and stone cameos being the oldest kind.
Glass cameos have been shaped by pouring molten glass into an intaglio mildew, which was sometimes manufactured from clay. The glass may very well be poured in layers of various colours to be carved as soon as it cooled or in any other case carved from a single-color glass then mounted on glass background of contrasting colour.
Glass cameos loved a revival in the course of the twentieth century and are extraordinarily valued by collectors in the present day, particularly these made by acknowledged designers like Hobe, Bellini, Neiger, Whiting & Davis and Juliana.
Most twentieth century glass cameos are made with using fashionable molds and, as such, will bear mildew traces or dimples and ridging alongside the again in addition to the absence of angles and planes that end result from hand carving.
Coral and stones like malachite, amethyst, turquoise, and lava end in monochrome cameos which may be favored by some however which are far much less common than varicolored cameos manufactured from shell and hardstone.
Hardstone cameos are normally composed of a type of semi-precious stones together with all sorts of chalcedony: agate, aventurine, bloodstone, carnelian, chrysoprase, jasper, onyx, tiger’s eye, sard and sardonyx. Banded agate, which is multicolored, and sardonyx, which has parallel bands of brown to pink alternating with white or black bands, are favored.
These multicolored types of chalcedony are favored as a result of slicing away layers exposes gradations of colour and patterns that improve depth and add distinction to every piece.
Sardonyx, a type of banded chalcedony, consists of alternating layers of sard and onyx. Different sorts of banded chalcedony embody onyx and agate.
A talented cameo carver can begin with shell or sardonyx of three of 4 completely different colour layers and carve a cameo with, for example, darkish flowers in mild colour hair, clothes with contrasting collars and bodice, and garlands of darker flowers.
Most profile cameos depict a feminine going through proper, some face left, and even fewer are full-face. Cameos that includes ladies with elaborate hair or hats, or these with scenes, mythological or historic figures, males, or kids are unusual and extremely prized by collectors.
Onyx has parallel bands sometimes in black and white whereas agate has curved bands in a wide range of colours. Cameos reduce from onyx, due to this fact, yield a cameo of 1 colour, white for example, on background of contrasting colour, equivalent to black.
Cameos reduce from agate, due to the curved bands of colour, yield cameos of contrasting colours, maybe a white or cream cameo with yellowish-brown highlights.
Stone cameos could also be handled with warmth or dye to alter their pure colour to yield fascinating background colours equivalent to blue. Cameos might also be carved of 1 materials then utilized to a background of contrasting materials with adhesives. These two-piece cameos are often known as assembled or composite cameos and are usually not as prized as cameos of contrasting colour carved from a single stone.
Examination with a loupe will normally expose the high quality line between layers and infrequently the reflective sheen of the adhesive, which is usually seen when the glue is pressed out from between the 2 layers (a solecism). As with all cameos, however particularly hardstone, the finer the options and sharper and deeper the element, the higher the cameo.
The shells most prized for carving cameos are these with naturally occurring layers of contrasting colour; the Emperor or Queen conch (sardonyx shell) and Helmet shell are extremely prized because of this. The most typical shell used for cameos, nevertheless, is the carnelian shell and people manufactured from sardonyx shell are the most costly.
Sardonyx shell cameos have a pure white layer over a reddish to wealthy brown inside and when carved can have a marble-like look, whereas carnelian shell cameos vary in colour from reddish-brown to peach or pale orange.
Lava cameos are easy, but lovely, monochrome cameos that date again to the seventeenth century. They’re manufactured from pyroclastic rock equivalent to tuff or welded tuff or grey, brown, white or putty colour igneous rock equivalent to felsite, rhyolite, basalt, or andesite. These supplies are fairly considerable and simpler to carve than shell or hardstone and have been due to this fact inexpensive on the time than both shell or hardstone.
Presently, vintage lava cameos rival shell cameos for magnificence, desirability and value. Victorians touring to Italy have been keen to acquire and put on one among these uncommon items, which served as an indication that they have been well-traveled. Sadly, as a result of lava is just not as sturdy as shell or hardstone, they’ll simply shatter if dropped; a lot of them didn’t survive.
Coral has been used for jewellery manufacturing for 1000’s of years; coral beads have been favored by the traditional Egyptians and have been discovered in lots of Egyptian tombs within the type of beads.
A wide range of cultures from the Egyptians to the Romans and even Victorians thought-about coral to be an amulet used to thrust back evil spirits.
Coral could be present in a wide range of colours with the colour being decided by the origin, availability of vitamins and water temperature. Probably the most prized of all of the coral is the pink selection, Corallium rubrum, generally known as noble coral. That is discovered primarily within the Mediterranean Sea.
Pink coral was fairly common in the course of the Victorian period and was common into beads, each spherical and pendeloque, and different cameo jewellery, particularly brooches and earrings.
Angel-skin cameos are these with a pale pink to salmon colour. It’s usually mistakenly assumed that every one angel-skin cameos are manufactured from coral (pelle de angelo), when in reality many are constituted of pink conch or roselyn shell. Shut inspection of a coral cameo with a 10X magnification jeweler’s loupe will reveal readily observable progress traces, which aren’t seen on “angel pores and skin” cameos of shell.
Pink shell cameos fade with publicity to mild and plenty of vintage pink shell cameos have light to the purpose the place solely a touch of pink stays. These cameos should be saved away from mild when not being worn.
Cameo rings have been common for so long as cameos have been carved with the extra common motifs being Grecian and Roman ladies and Roman troopers.
Fake cameos have been made in resin and a wide range of plastic together with Bakelite, celluloid and thermoplastic – these are all molded cameos. Most fake cameos can have flat backs whereas shell cameos have backs which are curved in a method harking back to the bowl of a spoon and a matte end.
Hand-carved shell cameos will bear progress traces, software marks and nearly facet-like planes which are usually seen to the bare eye and definitely obvious with using a loupe. When held for a couple of minute or so, genuine shell or stone cameos will stay cool to the contact whereas plastic cameos will grow to be heat from physique warmth.
Starting about fifty years in the past the machine age caught up with cameos when using ultrasound to supply cameos gained traction. In her 1991 e-book, “Cameos: Previous & New,” Anna M. Miller wrote that at the moment it was estimated that as many as eighty-percent of cameos have been being machine-cut by ultrasound in Germany and Japan.
Gerhard Becker, a grasp cameo carver, described the look of cameos made by ultrasound as having the looks of “freshly fallen snow.” Tracks or uniform parallel striations, seen throughout your complete floor of machine-made cameos, could be simply detected with using a loupe, particularly when seen from the aspect. These traces are a serious tipoff that the cameo in not hand-carved.
Ultrasound reduce cameos additionally lack undercutting, a slicing method that’s similar to bas reduction. Undercutting provides dimension and produces depth.
Ultrasound cameos are mass-produced from a hand-carved template and as such are usually not distinctive or genuine. The time it takes to supply one among these cameos is minutes as in comparison with hand-carved cameos which will take many days to months or perhaps a yr to finish.
My feeling is that technically and by definition, having been reduce into shell, items created by ultrasound are cameos however they don’t seem to be real within the sense that they don’t seem to be created using the 1000’s of years previous technique of hand carving. Nor are they, as true cameos are, distinctive however reasonably one of a giant group of contemporary, machine-made, minute-made, equivalent clones.
When you’re out there for a cheap cameo and the thought of uniqueness, depth and hand-carving is just not essential, then ultrasound-produced cameos could enchantment to you; simply be sure to are usually not paying hand-carved costs.
Many of those machine-made cameos are being bought as hand-carved and plenty of sellers aren’t even conscious they’re promoting mass-produced, machine-made items.
Nancy Schuring assisted with this text. Nancy based Devon Superb Jewellery over 40 years in the past from a love of jewellery, gems and design. She additionally based the Devon Basis to supply lapidary scholarships to younger folks in gem-rich international locations. www.devonfinejewelry.com • www.devonfoundation.com
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