Featured CAMEOS: Show & Tell or Ask & Answer

Discussion in 'Jewelry' started by Bronwen, Dec 20, 2017.

  1. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    It's a niche interest, so thought there should be a niche for those of us who appreciate these little works of art.

    Hoping this will be an ongoing thread for sharing and learning about cameos. Intaglios welcome too!

    I'll start off with a cameo received just this afternoon. It might qualify as a 'find', although not bought for a thrift shop price. Still, with it in my hand, think I got a very good deal for $100. It was sold as gold filled, and seller's photos added to the impression that the setting was not very good. My interest was in the hardstone cameo of Michelangelo, so threw in the opening bid and won without opposition. There is a tag on the safety chain not shown in the listing. It appears to confirm my immediate impression when I had the piece in my hand.

    The cutter of the cameo tamed his subject's distinctively unruly hair.

    Michelangelo hardstone 1B.jpg Michelangelo_medal.JPG Michelangelo hardstone 1 tag.jpg
    The way cabinetry typically has parts that are out of sight and made of 'secondary wood', it is usual for a cameo like this to be framed and ornamented in precious metal while having hidden more structural bits made of brass, pinchbeck, etc. The seller appears to have misread the tag as indicating the whole piece is gold filled. Based on the weight in my hand, even taking into account the stone, and the quality of the T hinge and C clasp, very similar to the findings on the Luigi Rosi cameo I have shown elsewhere (Christmas gift to self), I had already concluded it would be wise to have the setting tested. Then I bothered to read the tag. I will still get around to having it tested, after the holidays when my jewellers have rested up a bit.

    Your turn. :writer::turtle::happy:
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  2. buyingtime777

    buyingtime777 Well-Known Member

    Lovely piece Bronwen. I have always admired cameos from afar and have a few rings but nothing like your pieces. Congratulations on a successful hunt!!!
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  3. Marie Forjan

    Marie Forjan Well-Known Member

    This is a set a friend found in his sister's items ten years ago when he was cleaning out her house. She had moved to assisted living and pretty much didn't know what was in the house any more. He lent them to me so I could take a photo, then he sent them on to his sister's daughter :)

    Sweet set, an attached note said "Carnelian stone cameo and earrings, 18k gold circa 1876."

  4. bercrystal

    bercrystal Well-Known Member

    I bought this about 15 years ago. I always wanted a cameo but could never warm up to any of the usual portrait style ones.

  5. pearlsnblume

    pearlsnblume Well-Known Member

    Very nice everyone. I have a cameo that I got as a gift back in the 70's I think.
    If I remember right, all the girls were wearing them back then for awhile.
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  6. evelyb30

    evelyb30 Well-Known Member

    This thing is a good 3 inches across with a 14k setting. Sold as costume (!) I have as yet to identify the subject. It's Venice, but I'm not sure what's going on. DSCF7016.JPG
  7. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    It is indeed a very sweet set, in excellent condition. Possible the ear wires are replacements, but who cares? I think of these cameos in general as 'noblewoman' cameos, as opposed to 'pretty lady' cameos. They still cut similar ones in the Idar-Oberstein region of Germany, which does sit 'over stone', deposits of the banded agate or lagenstein (layer stone) used for this type of work.

    The local mines were already worked out about 200 years ago. Fortunately other sources were found. These are not as colorful as the local stone. Equally fortunate is the porosity of agate that allows it to be dyed. The color of these stones has probably been 'enhanced' to achieve that deep, even carnelian color. The Michelangelo I show up top has also been dyed to get a black background. The Romans already knew the trick of it.

    Recently a cameo of the noblewoman type turned up at auction as a Luigi Rosi. Of course photos have been added to Pinterest boards, so no doubt it will be so identified in perpetuity. The auctioneer claimed it has Rosi's signature and address on the back, as many of his pieces do, but did not show it nor respond to a request for an additional pic. I was relieved when it did not sell. Very handsome piece; the signature is undoubtedly fraudulent.
    Noblewoman signed L Rosi.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  8. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Very nice, cleanly cut helmet shell bouquet. I do not have any of this type but am often tempted. The 'pretty lady' type that you did not want is the only kind many people have seen. Let's keep showing them the wider world of cameos. :joyful:

    Forgot to mention how much I like the setting. :happy:
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  9. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Hi evelyb30, Think I have seen this piece on another thread? It was probably soon after I joined in when I saw it but maybe long after first posted. I wrote about it then that it is very unusual, I have never seen one that really resembles it. It is more allegorical: a lone lady in romantic Venice, dreamily beset by thoughts of love (the role of the cupids in the scene). Think I also remarked that without a gondolier in the picture there is something Lady of Shallot-ish about it. I find it very humorous - the cupids are a bit devilish.

    So many people find themselves with a cameo to sell while having little knowledge about them and little interest as well. They just want to get rid of it, don't take much care with evaluating it, then someone, such as yourself, with a good eye comes along and gets a bargain. Well done! :joyful:
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  10. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    As I recall, the Beatles kicked off the 'British invasion' of the US, leading to a fascination in all things English, which naturally led to a wave of Victorian influence in fashion, cameos included. :happy:
  11. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Maybe we will keep drawing you closer until one day you fall for one of your own. ;)
  12. Chris Mount

    Chris Mount Getting there

    I see a few cameos of different sizes on my travels what are the tips of picking out a good one. Would it have a lot to do with the quality of the backing material.
    What is the main material the actually cameo is made from. Chris
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  13. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    The majority of cameos we find for sale are cut in helmet shell, like the ones shared by bercrystal & evelyb30. A couple of varieties are commonly used; one provides a background that is lighter & more orange, the other is darker, sometimes quite a dark brown. We are beginning to see artificial cameos that look frighteningly like helmet shell.

    Conch shell is also used. These cameos can be all white, all pink, most often a white figure on a pink background. On eBay they are frequently incorrectly described as angel skin coral.

    There are coral cameos, ranging from a deep red, which can be assumed to be dyed, to the palest shades that are the true angel skin. There are also a lot of fake coral cameos, some quite convincing. Best to be careful about these. There is guidance on recognizing coral & conch shell in this article.

    Short of gems cut in precious or semi-precious stones, the material that adds the most value to a cameo is agate or jasper, both the same basic mineral, chalcedony, known under the general term 'hardstone'. Agate, with its layers of color, is the more common. The Michelangelo at the top, the set Marie shared with us & the very orange spurious Rosi are all agate. Hardstone can be effectively mimicked by glass. A nice glass cameo is not necessarily without value, just don't pay hardstone prices for one.

    Another type of cameo is called lava. Articles about this and about hardstone can be reached from the page on 'angel skin'. Other materials are also used for cameos, but these are the most common.

    Cameo collectors disagree about how important various factors are in valuing a cameo, but no one disputes that the very most important is quality of carving. A well carved shell cameo is more valuable than a mediocre one in hardstone.

    When first taking an interest in cameos, it is easy to mistake pretty for good, although pretty is a perfectly good place to start. It is only with looking at a wide array of cameos that one develops an appreciation for finer carving and more unusual subjects.

    Museums will display ancient Greek or Roman cameos that are broken. Unless the carving on a modern piece is superior, this is not acceptable. Condition counts. When held up with light behind, helmet shell cameos often show fine 'stress lines'. While not desirable, these are not considered a serious flaw if they are not numerous & have not developed into through & through cracks. Hardstone cameos that are set in rings frequently have had their nose knocked off, the first thing I check on these. Cameos can get amazingly grimy. Most can be safely cleaned, so this is not a problem. However, reject anything that looks stained, has anything that looks like an ink mark, etc. These cannot always be remedied.

    Most cameos appear in jewellery, both costume quality and fine, and that aspect can be assessed just as for any other jewellery. I cannot overemphasize that you cannot assume a cameo is good because the setting is or vice versa. All else being equal, larger cameos are usually preferred to smaller ones, but this is a minor consideration.

    A feature that always adds value but that is rarely found on cameos that turn up in thrift stores and church bazaars is the presence of a signature, even an illegible one.

    My personal order for importance:
    • Quality of carving
    • Signed or not
    • Subject
    • Material
    • Condition
    • Setting
    • Size
    Placing the subject so high very much reflects my personal taste. Many people would put it last. It is also something you can't gauge until you have an idea of which subjects are common.

    If a cameo comes with its original box it gets a significant bump up in resale value.

    Well Chris, you asked. :writer: :turtle: :joyful:
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  14. Figtree3

    Figtree3 What would you do if you weren't afraid?

    @Bronwen , not sure when I'll be able to join this thread with photos, but I have a question. Some years ago I was purposely buying cameos of all sorts of materials so that I would be better educated on what each type looked and felt like. Technically, some people would say the word "cameo" should be used only for carved items, made from materials such as those you mentioned above. (Although you did mention glass...)

    So my question is, for this thread, do you only want the carved cameos posted? And what is your take on calling something made of a material such as celluloid, resin, glass, or ceramic (think Wedgwood) a cameo? I do have at least a few of many different types. When I or others post pics, would those be acceptable or should we stick with carved ones?
  15. Marie Forjan

    Marie Forjan Well-Known Member

    Here are two more, long since gone to new homes...

    Gold filled:

    10k gold, carving of Psyche?:
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  16. pearlsnblume

    pearlsnblume Well-Known Member

    I just remembered my cameo is a ring.
  17. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    I want people to post anything they find pleasing or puzzling that relates to the field in any way. I'm only a little fussy in that I prefer the word 'cameo' when the image is in relief, and 'intaglio' for anything engraved below the surface, both perfectly appropriate here.

    Because I write about cameos, I too have acquired many for what I think of as my study collection that would not interest those who want only the finest specimens of the form. My primary interest is the subjects on cameos. When I write about a given topic, as much as I can I try to show examples ranging from the best to almost unrecognizably crude, in as many different materials as I can. Some subjects seem to turn up only on artificial cameos; these are worth knowing about too. Wedgwood is right at home here, as are beautiful glass paste pieces from France and Tassie impressions. Old guide books for Rome often list cameo cutters and micromosaicists together, since both are forms of lapidary work.

    This site is nothing if not educational. I say, Bring 'em on! :writer::turtle::joyful:
  18. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Marie's two cameos are both helmet shell, the first, of a grape vine wreathed bacchante/maenad cut using only the pale layer, the second, correctly IDed as Psyche, using the layers of color in the more conventional way. I'm sure they have gone on to be loved.
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  19. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    As suspected, the earlier message has reappeared. Only read this one if you want to go over it again.

    I just lost a whole long reply when I tried to edit it. :grumpy:

    To recap:
    I want people to post anything that pleases or puzzles them. I'm a bit fussy about using 'cameo' for works in relief and 'intaglio' for those engraved below the surface, both appropriate here. The two things that one sees called cameos that are not and really do not belong here are painted miniatures and stones cut en cabochon.

    I too have acquired pieces I think of as my study collection so that I could handle, not just see the various materials, including the man made and molded, such as Vulcanite. Wedgwood belongs here, as do the beautiful glass paste pieces made in France and Tassie impressions. Old guidebooks to Rome frequently list cameo cutters and micromosaicists together. Some subjects appear only on artificial pieces; these are also worth knowing about. I limited my answer to Chris because I thought that is what he was asking:

    When I write about cameo subjects, I try to show examples ranging from excellent to unrecognizably crude, in as many different materials as I can, including the artificial.

    This site is nothing if not educational. Bring 'em on!, I say. :writer::turtle::joyful:
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
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  20. Bronwen

    Bronwen Well-Known Member

    Ditto on this one:
    As suspected, the earlier message has reappeared. Only read this one if you want to go over it again.

    Actually, seem to have lost two. :grumpy::grumpy:

    Marie's cameos are both cut in helmet shell. The first, using only the pale layer, is a grape vine wreathed bacchante/maenad. The second, using the color layers in the more conventional way, is correctly identified as Psyche. I'm sure both now much enjoyed by new owners.

    Suppose now I'll find the earlier notes back again.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
    Figtree3 likes this.
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