During the fifteenth or sixteenth century, the cameos were popularized by Queen Victoria of England.
Throughout history, persons of royalty have set the tone for jewelry fashion. It is said that Queen Elizabeth loved to wear cameos and it is noted that Catherine the Great had a very impressive collection of them. And, the cameo survived the whims of changing fashion during the Nineteenth Century in England. Since Queen Victoria flavored cameos, the cameo was quite popular during and since her reign. They were popular as pins and pendants usually worn on a black velvet ribbon or even sometimes-pastel satin ribbons.
Yet cameos have not always been decorative jewelry for women. In fact, at different points in history they have been worn as frequently by men. While the birthplace of the cameo was nearly 300 years before the birth of Christ in Alexandria, Egypt, cameos owe their origins to ancient carving traditions. As far back as 15,000 BC, petroglyphs — figures carved into rock — were used to record significant events and communicate information. In ancient times people used cameos to depict an ethic or moral, or to make a statement about their faith or loyalties.
In the centuries since, cameos have been used for various purposes and decorated with a wide range of carvings:
---- Early Greek and Roman carvings featured images of gods and goddesses, themes from mythology, beautiful women and biblical events.
---- Many cameos through history depict living heroes or rulers.
---- 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.
---- 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.
---- Cameos have been used on helmets and military accessories like breastplates and sword handles, on rings and other jewelry, and on vases, cups and dishes.
---- 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 18th century, men purchased carved gems to mark their prestige and culture.
---- Cameos enchanted Napoléon, who wore a cameo to his own wedding and founded a school in Paris to teach the art of cameo carving to young apprentices.
---- Not until the nineteenth century, when the popularity of shell cameos grew — reducing the use of hardstones or agate — did profiles become as popular a subject matter as they are today.
Types of Cameos
Genuine cameos are carvings of natural materials, including seashell, coral, ivory and stones. Ideally, the carving should be a single piece, and not composed of glued layers. Many cameos take advantage of natural color gradations in materials, which result in images such as a white face carved over a pink background.
Today, most cameos are mass produced. The materials used may include resin, polymer clay or poured agate. They are rich in color and and always associated with images of beautiful women, animals, skulls, roses, geometric designs, and other shapes. Lasers and other modern equipment carve today's cameos instead of the human hand.
Cameos are carved in two different styles: relief, the more common of the two, and intaglio.
A relief cameo is carved out of cameo material and is the opposite of the intaglio. It is a portrait or scene carved in relief with a contrasting colored background.
An intaglio cameo is carved into the stone or cameo material. In ancient times, the intaglio was used to seal papers or to mark property. Later on, it became a jewelry item worn by women.
Value of Cameo
The most valued cameos are hardstone (e.g., agate, lapis, amethyst) cameos. Hard material requires considerable skill to carve, but yields detailed images that may endure for thousands of years. High quality, beauty, or uniqueness of an image all increase a cameo's value. Cameos command higher prices if they are still in their original settings. New settings should mirror the style used when the cameo was carved. Rarity also determines the value of a cameo.
Traditional Way of Producing a Cameo
To produce a hand-carved shell cameo, most artists follow the following steps:
---- After the sardonyx or carnelian shell is selected, it is divided into two parts. One part of the shell is used for souvenir items and trinkets, and the other part — thicker and more richly colored — is used for cameos.
---- The part of the shell to be used for cameos, called the cup, is then divided further by a cutter. The back of these pieces of shell are then smoothed and rounded, and finally attached to a wooden stick for easy handling by the carver. The rough, curved outer layer is left exposed for carving.
---- Carvers work with a carving tool called a bullino, introduced by Italian carvers several hundred years ago, or small dental drills, to grind away shell.
---- After drawing a sketch of the subject matter on the shell, the carvers use traditional cameo carving tools to create the image. Most carvers sit near windows to take advantage of natural light, doing the majority of the work by hand. Cameos can take a few hours or a few days to complete.
Cameos are pieces of art, and must be cared for accordingly. Store your cameo away from heat or bright lights, in a softly lined box, and remember that simple cleaning is probably the best method:
---- Dust your cameo regularly with a soft brush.
---- While dusting, pay attention to the deep ridges in the cameo where dust is likely to collect. Dust can scratch a cameo, so it is important to keep it as dust-free as possible.
---- After dusting you may rinse a shell cameo with warm water, drying it afterward with a soft cotton cloth. Shell cameos are easily damaged, so avoid using soap, harsh cleaners or commercial jewelry cleaners.
---- Mother-of-pearl cameos can be cleaned with a mixture of mild soap and warm water before being dried with a soft cloth.
Tips of Making a Resin Cameo Jewelry
Resin cameo jewelry making projects do not have to be difficult. In fact, you can make easy cameo bracelets and cameo necklaces with just a few supplies.
Find a flat setting for a cameo
–You may find flat setting that you like. A flat setting requires gluing your cameo in place because a flat setting doesn’t have prongs. Use a jeweler’s glue to set your cameo in place, making sure that the glue will not destroy or damage the cameo’s material.
–Another possibility is a snap set. A snap set includes prongs that will hold your cameo in place. You can adjust the prongs using a rubber tipped jeweler’s pliers.
Add beads or pearls around the cameo
To present it as the focal piece of a necklace or bracelet, you can add beads or pearls around the cameo. For materials that you are going to use for the basis of your jewelry, just take your imagination and pocketbook and have fun! Wire, chains or stringing material such as ribbon, all are decided by you.
Get the resin cameos drilled
Resin cameos are easily drilled. You can drill a hole wherever you like for different purpose and effect. Drill holes at the bottom to add dangles or on each side to use as a centerpiece for beaded work. Drill a hole halfway in the cameo and then glue in a rhinestone or pearl.
Make a change with the resin cameos
Grind or sand or use a nail file and make into any shape you want, like squares or triangles.
Sometimes measurements are not accurate and filing them down a little will fit the frame.
Wire wrapping is a lot easier if you use a small drill to make a small notch on the side. It helps giving you something to hang onto when starting.
You can also use the drill to remove some additional decorations you don’t want.
Repaint the cameos if you don’t like the original colors.
You can make the resin any color, or make 2 or 3 (or more) colors for different parts of it. However, mixing colors sometimes resulted in unexpected effects.
Work with resin cameo and get more pleasure by trying new ways!!