Cameo's have been worn for thier beauty and status throughout history. See how this piece of jewelry evolved over the years from Howard Wiggins Interior Design Howard Wiggins.
By Howard Wiggins
Photography By Danna Haile
Throughout history, people have worn cameos for status as well as beauty. The oldest discovered cameo originated in Alexandria, Egypt, and during the Hellenistic era, young women used cameos as charms to express desire and invite love. Men in the eighteenth century purchased carved gems to display their culture and prestige, and even Napoleon was so enchanted with them that he wore them in his coronation crown and at his wedding. In Great Britain, the revival of the cameo occurred during the reign of King George III, but it was during Queen Victoria's reign that the cameo enjoyed popularity to such degree that cameos became mass-produced embellishments by the second half of the nineteenth century.
A variety of precious and semi-precious stones make up antique and quality carved cameos. Lava stone and agate, bone, ivory, and coral were particularly favored during the Georgian period. Cameos have always been carved by hand, particularly by the hands of children for the delicacy of their work, beneath running spring water to magnify and wash away fragments of coral. The majority of modern cameos, however, particularly those made of agate, are now carved with the aid of the ultrasonic mill.
Cameos have traditionally depicted scenes of Greek or Roman mythology, portraits of rulers or important dignitaries, flowers, scenery, and anonymous countenances as well as likenesses of specified individuals.
In centuries past, helmets and military accessories such as breastplates and sword handles donned cameos. Various vessels, including, vases, cups, and dishes also adopted the visages.
Yet it is jewelry that has been the most recognized medium for cameos in our modern era. Cameos set into signet rings, brooches, hat and collar pins, bracelets, and necklaces direct our association with cameos.
EXPRESSION OF LOVE
Inspired by a single cameo worn by my wife, Jodie, at the christening of our son. I decided to embark on creating a collection of pink, angel skin coral cameos to commemorate the occasion. The discovery of an antique church fragment during my attendance of the Heart of Country Antique Show in Nashville set my ideas in motion. I wasted no time in purchasing the rare display piece for my growing collection, and after eventually acquiring more than one hundred cameos, I decided to craft the look of the display by adding a background of black velvet upon which the cameos could be displayed and attached for easy removal. I configured the cameos into an oval shape within the display to draw attention to their graceful form and draw the eye outward in a similar fashion. An ormolu container of pink carpet roses beneath the display emphasizes the luminous color of the cameos. I then decided to flank each side of the display, using a pair of rare Chantilly bisque porcelain figures to suggest the carved relief of the collection.