Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - A Word or Two about Cameos

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Volume 1



THE term cameo is popularly applied to precious stones and shells, the surfaces of which are covered with raised figures, mostly of a different colour from the ground, and mounted as brooches, bracelets, pins, ear-rings, finger-rings, and other personal ornaments. What are called stone cameos are most valuable and durable; but the actual cost varies greatly, owing to differences of material and workmanship. Very often fraud is practised by unprincipled artists, who cut out the figures separately and attach them by cement to the flat surface of stones prepared for them. Many cheap imitations of cameos are formed in moulds and fastened to glass or some other common material. A splendid Roman cameo for a brooch may cost fifteen or twenty pounds, while one of the same size and inferior work in shell will cost but a few shillings. We gather the following from an interesting essay on this subject:- "There are antiques, to produce which the chemical skill of the artist had to be exercised. A species of enamel was made, and with this cornelians of the required grain and density were covered by the application of fluxes and intense heat, thus forming, artificially, the much-desired layer of clear hard substance, out of which to cut the wished-for design. Many works which rank amongst the stone or true cameos, although of comparatively simple design, moderate size, and not antique specialities, are worth £ 50 and upwards; whilst shell cameos, well executed, and representing precisely the same subjects, may be bought for £ 2 10s. or £ 3. The reason for this immense difference in value lies, first, in the intrinsic worth of the material operated on; next, in the great facilities afforded to the artist, who works on the soft and yielding shell with instruments and appliances of ordinary power ; and lastly, in the almost indestructible qualities of the stone cameos when finished. Cameos in onyx, agate, cornelian, and some others are particularly beautiful when the colours of the layers of. the stone or veins are strongly contrasted. The oriental onyx is black and white; the cornelian, brown and white ; the agates vary. Shell cameos are chiefly of two sorts, some having a reddish ground, others a brownish ground, both with white or whitish figures. Those with a vivid reddish-tinted ground and pure white figures are best. There are antique cameos which are very expensive. Many modern pieces with classical subjects are also costly, though, when of inferior materials and finish, they are often cheap. The settings, of course, are of all kinds, and should correspond in material and value with the cameos they display.

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source: Cassells Household Guide, c.1880s