inJuly 8, 2011 - 2:13pm
I remember being a little girl and my great grandmother having this beautiful brooch of a girl’s profile carved from pink colored shell. I admired it every time I went to her house and saw it in the china cabinet. That was when I fell in love with cameos.
When she passed in 2004 with Alzheimer’s , I got a few pieces of her jewelry and that was one of them. That one beautiful brooch I had admired my whole life was the start of my collection. When I started collecting and noticing there were different faces, different girls, whole pictures carved in this same style, I decided to learn more about these beautiful pieces of art. As I learned more, I got more and more interested. The history and meaning of the cameo goes so much further back than being “The Vintage Lady.”
Cameos are so much more than just a pretty girl, although in my eyes they are the epitome of beauty and femininity. While the birthplace of the cameo was nearly 300 years before the birth of Christ in Alexandria, Egypt, cameos owe their origins to ancient carving traditions. The most popular cameos today are carved in sea shells, a tradition that began in the 15th or 16th century and was made popular by Queen Victoria of England. Other royalty often had their own images carved into gems and turquoise in this same style. Some cameos were once used to prove cultural status in the Elizabethan period. Cameos were made and worn in several cultures with different faces and different meanings. Early Greek and Roman carvings featured images of gods and goddesses, themes from mythology, beautiful women and biblical events. Many cameos through history depict living heroes or rulers. In the Hellenistic era young women used cameos as charms to express desire. A woman could wear a cameo depicting a dancing Eros as a seductive invitation to love. Surprisingly, they have been used on helmets and military accessories like breastplates and sword handles, on rings and other jewelry, and on vases, cups and dishes. I never knew that there was so much history, and so many variations of cameos. This art form is perfected by master carvers, who carve for years before they can produce quality work.
In my own collection I have pieces by master carvers, glass pieces, simple remakes. There are faces of the gladiators, the Virgin Mary, goddesses and Saints. All of them are treasured pieces to me right down to the little plastic AVON cameo. To me this is simply because they remind me of my great grandmother. This collection and fascination of mine is what started my love of vintage jewelry, and that has turned into my shop here. It has also turned into a therapy, a hobby, and a great way to learn more about the things I love. I am always striving to expand my horizons with Vixen’s Vintage Venue and learn about the pieces I own and sell.
I have so much gratitude toward my great grandmother, who always did have an impact on me, for helping me heal and for introducing me to the wonderful world of vintage.