Cameo (Shell)

Ancient and Renaissance cameos were made from semi-precious gemstones, especially the various types of onyx and agate, and any other stones with a flat plane where two contrasting colours meet; these are “hardstone” cameos. In cheaper modern work, shell and glass are more common. Since the late 19th century, the species most used in good-quality cameos has been Cypraecassis rufa, the bullmouth helmet, the shell of which can be up to 6 inches long. In this species, the upper shell layer is whitish, and the lower shell layer is a rich orange-brown. Modern sources for this shell are Madagascar and South Africa. The finest hand-carving of these shells takes place in Italy.

Modern cameos can be produced by setting a carved relief, such as a portrait, onto a background of a contrasting colour. This is called an assembled cameo. Alternatively, a cameo can be carved by the traditional, but far more difficult, method directly out of a material with integral layers or banding, such as (banded) agate or layered glass, where different layers have different colours.

Stock sizes:  Available in both Corn Shell and Sard Shell along with a selected few pieces of Agate Cameos
Round: 6mm – 12mm
Oval: 6x4mm – 25x18mm
Octagon: 7x5mm – 12x10mm

A selection of larger hand carved pieces are available

Chemical Formula: Mostly calcium carbonate
Crystal Structure: N/A
Colour: Orange, Brown, White
Hardness: 3 on Moh`s scale
Refractive Index: N/A
Specific Gravity: N/A
Cleavage: N/A
Treatments: N/A

Care: Shell Cameos are prone to discolouration and cracking from drying as they age. Many jewellery cleaning solutions available have harsh chemicals in them that are unsafe for Shell Cameos, Pearls and Coral. If a cleaning solution says to not clean pearls with it, do not use it on your Cameos. Cameos may be cleaned gently with a soft toothbrush to lightly scrub the cameo.