Do you have a treasured cameo tucked away in a drawer?
No one knows for sure when the first cameo was carved, but it’s believed it was in Greece or Rome. These early cameos were typically scenes from Greek or Roman history and mythology.
Today the most common cameo motif is the portrait, and we have the Victorians to thank for this. Early in the 19th century, cameos featured a mystery Roman woman wearing no jewelry (gasp!). As more and more Victorian women embarked on their Grand Tour (a traveling rite of passage designed for upper-class Europeans to absorb the art and culture of Italy and Greece) they sought out lava cameos carved with this mystery woman’s image. Their souvenir cameos served as keepsakes as well as proof that they had traveled abroad.
Eventually, these affluent Victorians demanded a more familiar looking female with a thinner neck, upswept hair, and wearing jewelry. That is why most of the cameos we see today look like an elegant Victorian lady.
See my current collection of repurposed vintage cameo pendants here.