14 May 2011

The Cameo:

An influential piece of jewellery throughout the ages, cameos are often seen to resurface in Modern fashion. Despite reaching their peak in popularity around the 18th Century, cameos have actually been around as early as 30BC! Below pictured is an Egyptian glass cameo from the ptolemaic period, 304-30 B.C

Egyption Glass Cameo selling at Christies, New York.
'Originally, cameos were probably related to intaligo, a carving used to make a seal. When pressed against wax or clay, the depressed design on an intaligo turns into a raised seal or crest. The cameo jewellery of the Greeks spread to the Romans, and then onwards through Europe...'

Many sources claim that Napoloeon's wife Josephine adored cameos and was probably responsible for their rise to fame. Here she is pictured below in full cameo parure...

Image taken from www.enchantedbyjsephine.blogspot.com
Her penchant for cameos must have influenced the Emperor of France, Napoloeon I, as his own coronation crown was also accessorised with the intricate carvings set in gold.
The Crown of Napoleon created in the 19th century, called "Crown of Charlemagne".

Generally, however, older cameo brooches were suspended from ribbons which were pinned to garments, and had a loop of metal in their setting through which a ribbon can be run. Below is an example of how the Victorians would have worn their cameo:

Painting by Robert Theer
Vogue Paris cover 2010- Model is wearing an antique cameo suspended on black ribbon.

Grays found a particular dealer who specialises in unusual cameos. Michelle Rowan has a vast knowledge of these delicate carvings and has produced a book titled ' Nineteenth Century Cameos'. She has also given lectures to Museums such as the V&A and the Tiffany Museum, Japan.

Here are some of the items from her shop within Grays:

Various Cameos offered by Michelle Rowan at Grays Antiques, stand  313-315. Prices range from £450 to £1850.

We have come up with some modern takes on the cameo if you are planning a wedding event or a party:

Antique cameo pendent and earrings paired with a dress from www.brides.com

Kirsten Dunst in the film 'Marie Antoinette'

Images taken from 'Opulent Creations' where you can find more cameo inspired party/wedding ideas

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