to covet cameos

sorry for the delay in posting. i hope this visual splendor and luscious research i've done will make-up for my absence.
i have always had a fondness for shells {probably due to being raised on the oregon coast}, and ever since the first time i saw my grandma wearing a cameo necklace and earrings set to church i've been attracted to that style of jewelry.

i am now the proud owner of that set and take it out of its velvet pouch to wear whenever i feel like some nostalgic beauty. after learning as a teenager that the sea shells i so adore are somewhat connected to the cameo jewelry i covet, it became a full-blown infatuation for both of them from then on.

now at all flea markets & estate jewelry shops i swoon over any cameo sets i see. and also as an adult i've had a growing fondness for cameo vessels as well. although these vases are most often made of glass, the concept for how they're produced is very similar and i really appreciate their soft elegance. maybe someday i'll be lucky enough to own one or two?
there are three main materials for cameo carving: shells or agate (called a hardstone cameo), and glass. cameos can be created by one of two processes: by setting a carved relief, such as a portrait, onto a background of a contrasting color, called an assembled cameo. alternately, a cameo can be carved directly out of a material with integral layers or banding, such as (banded) agate or layered glass, where different layers have different colors. Sometimes dyes are used to enhance these colors but most often the natural hues are plenty.
stone cameos of great artistry were made in greece dating back as far as the 6th century bc. they were very popular in ancient rome, and the technique has since enjoyed periodic revivals, notably in the early renaissance, and again in the 17th & 18th centuries. the renaissance cameos are typically white on a grayish background and were carved from the shell of a mussel or cowrie.
in the mid 18th century, explorations revealed new shell varieties ~ helmet shells from the west indies and queen conch shells from the bahamas arrived in europe. this sparked a big increase in the number of cameos carved from shells. modern sources for the best quality conch shell are madagascar and south africa.

today's world center for cameo carving in shell is torre del greco, italy. the shells are first marked with a series of ovals in a process called signing, then cut into oval blanks for the cameo carver. the actual cameo is mainly cut with a metal scraping tool, called a bulino {an invention of jewish artisan antonio cimeniello}. a number of metal gravers are used and when the details are completed, the shell is then soaked in olive oil, cleaned with soap and water and selectively polished with a hand brush.

{sources: wikipedia and flickr}


Enzie Shahmiri said...

These vases are to die for. I found you through Tara's blog and will be visiting more often.

Cindy said...

The Vases are gorgeous!
I had a cameo years ago and lost it. I loved it because it was so dainty.

Very nice post!

tangobaby said...

I love every photo in this post!

Someday when you go to Paris, you should go to The Musée
des Arts Décoratifs (I think it is the Musée de la Mode et du Textile)


They had a gorgeous exhibit of cameos and the best part of it was a series of examples of how the cameo is carved to expose the layers of the shell. You just reminded me how beautiful and fascinating the exhibit was--you would love it! (Actually, you'll go insane to see all of the jewelry there!)

Thanks for starting my day off with something pretty (again)!

studio wellspring said...

hi and welcome enzie and cindy! so glad to have you all here, and so glad you enjoyed the cameo collection. it was pure joy putting it together.
cindy ~ i do hope you find yourself a replacement cameo....if you're in the bay area, there's a shop on sutter called lang's antique and estate jewlery that sells some very incredible cameos. ;o)

paris parfait said...

Such gorgeousness! I, too, fell in love with cameos because of one my grandmother owned. You are so lucky to have such a special one owned by your grandmother. (And you will be happy to know that finally, FINALLY, your package has gone off prioritaire. I thought I had sent it ages ago - alas, it was in my "storage" room/guest bedroom/art studio hidden by a pile of pillows! I hope you're of the mind "better late than never." :) xo

studio wellspring said...

oh thank tb for some more deliciousness to covet!

studio wellspring said...

tee hee tara ~ i had completely forgotten about that. yes, i am absolutely a firm believer in "better late than never"! and now i can't wait to see the treasures from across the sea. thanks so very much for picking me. my day is brighter already! :o)

Red shoes said...

Oh! I've always loved these...I have a white-on-black brooch with a silver surround. Thank you for the lesson!

studio wellspring said...

hi dearest red shoes! maybe next time we get together we should wear our cameos...just for fun! i'd love to see yours! ;o)

Anonymous said...

I have found you searching in google icon engine for cameo history & moda, your collection is good, i beleive you can have your own Cameo Portrait with Rennaisence Hair-dressing, like something unique for you.

TSOUTIS said...

I have found you searching in google icon engine for cameo history & moda, your collection is good, i beleive you can have your own Cameo Portrait with Rennaisence Hair-dressing, like something unique for you.