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 Luna, the ancient Roman goddess who personifies the moon (in Greek mythology, her name is Selene). You can see the crescent moon at her shoulder, and the swirled hair style typically associated with cameos of Luna. 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. This example also has an early safety chain, so you can wear her with confidence. A lovely piece, at a wonderful price to start your cameo collection!
Weight: 3.8 grams
Materials: Gold, Carved Shell Cameo
Metal: 9K yellow gold
Condition: Very good antique condition commensurate with age and wear