Antique Cameos

A cameo is a miniature sculpture which is generally mounted as jewellery. However sometimes it can be even mounted as decorative boxes, buckles and many such daily use or rare accessories. Cameos are carved into respite and are gemstones. Generally the cameos are carved onto a contrast color background. Cameos are invaluable pieces which are purely used for decoration purposes.

Antique cameos since the era of 1800s are available today. They are priceless items which everyone craves for. Collection of cameos has become an interesting hobby today and people are ready to shell out any amount of money for it. However, it is necessary to identify genuine cameos so that maximum profit can be gained.

Antique cameos are valued on the basis of various factors, namely quality of the carving, subject of carving, present condition, and age, type of the setting, material used for setting and any other material used. The desirability of the cameo is determined based on the subject matter being more unusual. The more unusual the subject matter is, the more desirable the cameo is.

The oldest cameo was found in Alexandria, Egypt. The cameo dates back to the 3 rd century BC and is made of agate. Earliest cameo making tool was discovered in 1800s in Italy and since then a number of cameos have been carved which have become antique pieces today. Many great personalities such as Queen Victoria, Emperor Napoleon, his wife and many more people used antique cameos as jewellery. It was considered to be a symbol prestige, status and wealth.

Different patterns are used in carving of the cameos. They are religious themes such as saints, prophets, angels, Mary, Jesus etc, scenic cameos which have animal or plant motifs, portraits, Greek and Roman mythological acts and beings, romantic cameos having cupids or couples and many more such themes. In 1800s the long straight noses of the Romans was a popular motif used for carving cameos. Since then the motifs have differed ranging from hair styles to artists and jeweler used.

The material used for making cameos also differs. The most common material used for cameo manufacture is the shells. Pearl cameos are also available. The less common material used is the stone and hence is the most desirable. Antique stone cameos were generally made from lava stone and agate. The stones were available in a range of colors namely brick, beige, black and white. Semi precious stones were also used in the carving of the cameos. Natural materials such as ivory, coral, and bones were also used to make cameos in the Georgian period.

Good condition is an important factor in evaluating an antique cameo. Cracks, chips, discoloration damage the value of the cameo. Keeping a cameo clean is of foremost importance.

Some tips to be followed while using cameos are as follows

* A cameo should never be kept in a plastic bag or in cotton wraps. It should be left in open air. However they should not be exposed to direct sunlight or heat.

* Any cameo should be gently cleaned with tepid water and soft cloth. Mild soap can also be used while cleaning. Olive oil can also be used for cleaning purposes.

* Ultra sonic jewellery cleaners should not be used as they degrade the charm of the cameo.

Care needs to be taken while handling such valuable pieces of the past. Antique cameos have become a delight and a large number of people are opting to purchase the charming piece of jewellery.


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