The art of cameo making for jewelry purposes dates back to almost 3 centuries before the birth of Christ (in Alexandria, Egypt). It is a much-loved and well-practiced skill that has been passed on and cherished from ancient times right up until modern-day times.
Stone cameos of great artistry were made in Greece dating back as far as the 3rd century BC, The Farnese Tazza (a cup) is the largest and oldest major Hellenistic piece surviving.
Up until the 19th century, most cameos were carved from hard stones such as coral, agate, garnet, jet, amber, jade and other materials, but the most commonly used medium for true carved cameos today is shell.
While most of us think of a female portrait when the word cameo comes to mind, throughout history many mythical scenes, Gods & Goddesses, heroes, rulers and Biblical events were used as subject matter. It wasn't until the fifteenth or sixteenth century that the female portrait cameo became predominant, brought forth in popularity by Queen Victoria of England.
Cameos have not always been just for women. As a matter of fact, throughout history, cameos have been adorned by men just as frequently as women with depictions that symbolized their prestige & culture. Men have worn them on rings and other jewelry, as well as on helmets and military breastplates and sword handles. Pope Paul II was known to have a great love of cameos and wore them on his hands, and Napoleon wore one to his wedding and founded a school in Paris, teaching the art of cameo carving to young apprentices looking to learn the skill.
Cameos today are reproduced into resin plastic and come in all kinds of colors which still give them that Victorian, Vintage style to them. I'm sure I didn't mention all the history of the Cameo but why not start a tradition in your family today?
Thanks for reading,