Cameo was a term originally applied to a piece of shell with a three dimensional carving. It originated in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It was chosen because it, like wood or Ivory, is easily carved with simple hand tools. Cameos gradually became more and more detailed and were elevated into an art form. Many historic Ladies are immortalized by their fine bas-relief portraits, worn as rings, brooches or pendants. Eventually, the carvers turned to scenes from history and mythology as their clientele demanded variety. And carvers who wanted to distinguish themselves as exceptional artists turned to more intricate items, like family seals. These were heavy wear items and soon wore out, so the carvers were forced to work in harder materials like Marble and limestone. Throughout time, artists were patronized, or supported, by their clients and they had a secure time to start working in harder materials like Onyx and Jasper.
Even today, Idar Oberstein continues in its renown as “the” center of intricate work. Their pieces, with intricate detailing by journeyman carvers, rivals computer quality. A family crest, for use as a seal in a ring, can cost from $500 and up depending on the degree of detail. Please be ready to wait for yours though, they have so many orders that they won’t be filled for many years.
We have a large assortment of fine shell cameos, ready to go and unset and waiting for a home. Could one of them be yours?