Have you ever held a cameo in your hand and felt the finely-carved lines with your finger?
If so, you understand that each and every cameo is a miniature work of art. Whether carved in carnelian shell or the rare sardonyx shell, mother-of-pearl or agate, cameos have an exquisite classic beauty that has held the attention of generations. And cameos make memorable gifts: they’re great for graduation, Mothers’ Day, Valentines day or your wedding anniversary.
At The Cameo Collection, we sell some of the finest cameos in the world. Imported from the city of Torre del Greco, Italy, the center of cameo carving in the world–our cameos come directly from the studio of the master carver Gennaro Borriello, who employs trained artisan carvers. This relationship ensures that each hand-carved cameo we sell is produced by artists whose hands understand the shells they carve and the timeless beauty they create.
You never actually own a real, hand-carved cameo; you merely look after it for the next generation.
The carnelian shell is the shell most frequently used for cameo carving. In color, carnelian shells are a low-intensity peach or orange color, offering contrast between foreground and background colors.
The sardonyx shell has a thick outer wall and a dark brown interior, and when carved it can resemble marble. Cameos carved in sardonyx shells are distinctive in color with a dark brown background and white foreground, and frequently cost more because the shells are rare.
Some cameos are carved in mother-of-pearl, producing a cameo of an opalescent, bluish-gray color. These cameos are best set in silver.
Our Agate cameos are carved ultrasonically. Blue or green in color, these cameos come from Germany and have a more modern look, despite the fact that agate has been used for cameos for centuries.
Many of the cameos are set in sterling silver or burnished silver. Others are set in 14K gold. The shell cameos, imported from Italy, are all signed on the back by the master carver Gennaro Borriello who owns the studio. Master carvers will sign the cameo on the front of the carving.
Thanks to Anna M. Miller’s book Cameos Old & New for shell information.
The most popular cameos today are carved in sea shells, a tradition that began in the fifteenth or sixteenth century and was popularized by Queen Victoria of England. Since that time, cameos have predominately showcased women’s profiles, and been worn by women who enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship of hand-carved cameos.
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:
Thanks to Anna M. Miller’s book Cameos Old & New for these bits of cameo history.
To produce a hand-carved shell cameo, most artists follow the following steps:
Thanks to Anna M. Miller’s book Cameos Old & New for production information.