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Things to know about the Cameo

A cameo consists of two layers:  a raised figure/scene and a background.

Miniature works of art, cameos were often used as "pictures" of ancient rulers.

Traditional cameos were carved from sardonyx or carnelian shell.  Now they incorporate materials such as agate, lava, jet, ivory, celluoid, Bakelite, resin, glass, and plastic. 

A shell cameo proves translucent when held to light and has a curved back.

Examine details such as facial features (especially the nose), hair styles, body shape (Barbie-doll clones didn't exist before the middle of the 20th century), clothing, and pin or clasp styles to assist with dating a cameo.

Mass produced cameos are generally molded and not carved.

Italian craftsmen invented the original cameo carving tool, the bullino (shown in the photo), in the early 1800s. 

Victorian women considered a cameo carved in their personal likeness a prized possession.

Cameos were favored jewelry of rulers such as Catherine the Great, Queen Victoria, Emperor Napolean and his wife Josephine.

From the Civil War to the World War II era, cameos were the most popular pieces of jewelry most women owned.

A cameo habille included jewelry with miniature precious stones worn by the carved likeness, and was popular in the late 19th century.

Torre del Greco, a town near Vesusius volcano in Naples, is the Cameo Capital of the world.

The value of a cameo is not necessarily dependent on the value of the metal in its setting.

The rarity, craftsmanship, and condition of the carving often determines the price of a cameo.

Cameos bearing full figures or detailed scenes are usually worth considerably more than facial cameos.

Keep cameos out of sonic cleaners or jewelry cleaning solutions which can damage or destory the finish.

Wipe your cameo with mineral oil about once a year, and let it set overnight.  In the morning, gently clean it using a cotton swab or soft toothbrush.   Wash in lukewarm water and mild soap (non-bacterial dishwashing soap or mild shampoo, for example), and dry thoroughly with a soft cotton cloth or the cool air flow of a hair dryer.

Dot not conserve cameos for a long time in a close place. Leave sometimes it exposed to air -- sitting it in your jewelry box works fine.