Show Off Shell Cameos

Shell Cameo of Veiled Bride; c. 1860
Cameos are an ancient decorative art associated with various cultures throughout time. One of their charming aspects lies in their ability to reveal something about the culture in which they were produced. But dedicated carvers took great pride in their artistic prowess, and looked for opportunities to show off their extraordinary technique.

The Victorian shell cameo shown here is of a classic female form in profile adorned in her bridal dress. The simple floral wreath atop her head secures a sheer veil which she modestly fastens with a demure twist under the chin.

The artist's ability to pull of this illusion of transparency in a shell cameo is one of the most remarkable feats a carver can perform. These types of intricate carvings were meant to thrill the wearer of the cameo, and distinguish the carver as an expert in his field.

Shells are among the most popular carving materials used by cameo carvers. Earliest examples of this material as a cameo foundation appeared in the Renaissance in the 15th - 16th centuries.

Bullmouth Helmet Shell

Prior to that, hardstone was used in cameo making. Today, carvers venture out with imaginative use of transparent gemstones and other carvable objects to create their extraordinary show pieces.


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