Real CAMEO Jewelry: The Good, the Bad and the Counterfeit.
Like most of the jewellery, or clothing, or anything for that matter that I love, I have many many many cameos to share with you. However, my Blog comes with a Stern Warning! Like all things we love, we encounter counterfeits and here is my story about the beautiful, unassuming Cameo and how to know when it is actual real cameo jewelry …
What is Cameo Jewelry?
Real cameo jewelry is a form of glyptography or bas-relief carving that features landscapes, portraits, and mythological figures cut into a variety of materials, but most often into glass, hard stones, and shells. The artwork is crafted to create two layers on one piece of material, with the top layer protruding from the background, creating a multi-dimensional artwork. Most commonly, cameos are found on brooches, necklaces, bracelets, and rings.
Cameo Jewelry History
Cameo jewelry dates back centuries, from your grandmother’s jewelry box to antique shop windows. The craft has captivated jewelers and buyers alike for many years. Contemporary artists are continually reinventing the techniques and pushing the boundaries to keep the craft alive. Cameo artistry traveled between the Ancient Mediterranean cultures through trade routes connecting Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Elite women began to collect cameos as signs of cultural status. The height of cameo popularity occurred during the Victorian era, as Victorians, especially British Victorians, were enamored of Italy and all things Italian, including cameos. Queen Victoria succumbed to the beauty of cameos and routinely wore them, and as a result, no middle or upper-class woman’s accessories were complete without a cameo or two.
How to Tell the Age of Your Cameo?
To determine the age of a cameo, it is essential to look at several factors, including the materials used, hairstyles and face shape, and the type of pin and setting. Shell cameos are relatively new in the history of cameos and became popular seven hundred years ago during the Renaissance. The finer the features and sharper and deeper the detail, the more valuable the cameo. Hairstyles and face shape can also help to date the cameo. Cameos with round cheeks and aquiline or Roman noses are usually of 19th-century origin, while cameos with prominent cheekbones and turned-up or pug noses originate in the 20th century. It is also important to note the type of pin and setting on the cameo. Nineteenth-century closures have a c-clasp, while 20th-century closures have a safety catch. Additionally, cameos with intricate details and sharp carvings are likely to be older and more valuable.
Is Cameo Jewelry Worth Anything?
The value of a cameo can vary greatly depending on the materials used, age, rarity, and condition. Glass and stone cameos are the oldest, and therefore, may be more valuable than shell cameos. Victorian cameos, specifically those that picture the profile of a woman with intricately coiffed hair, are highly sought after and can fetch a high price. However, it is essential to note that not all cameos are valuable, and it is essential to have a professional appraise any piece before making a purchase.
How Can You Tell Real Cameo Jewelry?
It can be difficult to determine the authenticity of a cameo. Shell cameos are relatively new in the history of cameos and became popular seven hundred years ago during the Renaissance. The finer the features and sharper and deeper the detail, the more valuable the cameo. Hairstyles and face shape help to date the cameo. Cameos with round cheeks and aquiline or Roman noses are usually of 19th-century origin, while cameos with prominent cheekbones and turned-up or pug noses originate in the 20th century. It is also important to note the type of pin and setting on the cameo. Nineteenth-century closures have a c-clasp, while 20th-century closures have a safety catch.
Spotting a Fake!
Now, we all encounter counterfeits from time to time, but this is my first time with a cameo, and I’ve shared the images above.
I found the suspect cameo in a little shop and asked the owner’s permission to inspect it, and actually take it apart. I assured him if it was not counterfeit that I would buy it, and we were on!
It certainly appeared to be Victorian with the C-clip pin, however, the setting was tiny and basic looking. I popped the back off, and sure enough, it was from a mold, the obvious crisscross pattern and the thickness of the acrylic were a sure giveaway. One last thing to be aware of, which I also found on a dainty, innocent-looking stickpin, a sloppy paint job. When the counterfeiters attempted to recreate the sienna colour of the conch shell, they slopped the paint onto the cream portion of the so-called carved portion. Oh, Dear!
Brenda Pye Pye creative.ca