by Amanda

Cameos - Classical Jewellery

Loved by kings, treasured by emperors and adored by collectors - cameos are classical pieces of jewellery that date back as far as the 4th century BC. These delicate pieces of sculpture gained notoriety and popularity during the Victorian years - Queen Victoria loved them and firmly established their place as one of the most cherished accessories a woman could own.

A cameo is an object that has been carved in relief, and usually depicts a scene or portrait. Quality cameos are carved from gems, shells, ivory or mother-of-pearl. During the 19th century, lava from Pompeii became the material of choice - as it allowed jewellery designers to make incredibly detailed and beautiful carvings.

The original purpose and meaning of cameos has been lost with time, but many have developed theories about what they may have been worn for. Many believe that they were created to depict a variety of things: ethics and moral standing; a special event; customs and philosophies; or remembrance of a cultural occasion. Over the years, these supposed special meanings have fallen away, and most cameos have come to feature the carved profiles of nameless women.

The earliest carvings began in semi-precious gemstones, such as onyx and agate, and were featured not only in pendants, but in earrings and signet rings too. As these beautiful items lost their cultural and personal significance, cheaper materials like shell and glass were used. Cleopatra loved emeralds, and had artists create cameos in her likeness out of these precious gemstones, while Catherine the Great is said to have had an impressive collection.

The most famous example of a cameo is the Great Cameo of France, said to date back to the Byzantine era. It is made up of 24 layers of design, and is the largest cameo in existence. It was created to symbolise the strength, dominance and longevity of the Julio-Claudian dynasty - which was made up of the first five emperors of Rome.

Cameos are beautiful, elegant pieces of jewellery. Whether featuring the visage of a woman, or even more delicate, nature-inspired artworks, these miniature masterpieces are still cherished by jewellery lovers all over the world.

View products in the following categories:

Victorian | Cameo | Shell | Shell | Glass | Lava | Pendants | Earrings | Rings | Emerald | Onyx | Agate

View blogs with the following tags:

Antique | Gems | Victorian
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