A cameo is a form of glyptography, or bas-relief carving, most often cut into glass, hard-stones, and shells. Artworks were crafted to create two layers on one piece of material, the top of which protruded from its background, creating a multi-dimensional artwork. These detailed reliefs were often used to adorn pieces of jewelry, including brooches, necklaces, bracelets and rings. The earliest cameos took inspiration from prehistoric petroglyphs, which documented important religious and symbolic iconography onto rock faces.
Despite its popularity in previous periods, the most well-known era for cameo collection was the 19th century, inspired by royal cameo collectors Queen Victoria and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Shelled cameos, which depicted these natural and humanistic scenes onto deep-sea shells, became quite popular under Queen Victoria’s reign. Similarly, Napoleon himself founded a Parisian apprentice school to foster the talents of young cameo carvers.
This generously sized brooch depicts the profile of Psyche, the ancient goddess who transforms into a butterfly. You can see the carved wings, one at her shoulder and one in her headdress. The Victorians were enamored with the Ancients, and cameos like this could be purchased when on the Grand Tour in Italy. The 14 karat gold setting has chased decorations, and was most likely from a jeweler in England, where the souvenir cameo could be brought in to be fitted as a brooch. We love the added bale at the back, allowing you to wear on a chain. A lovely piece, at a wonderful price to start your cameo collection!
Dimensions: 38mm x 46mm
Weight: 9.9 grams
Materials: Gold, Carved shell cameo
Metal: 14K yellow gold
Condition: Excellent antique condition commensurate with age and wear