I’m often asked to elaborate on cameo terminology… You know the Lingo which helps to explain the different techniques that carvers use when perfecting their craft! So I’m here to share in a Ruby Lane article in hopes that this brief tutorial will help some of you sound like experts… even if you are just starting out!
Triple Carving- This term simply means that all three layers of the shell have been utilized when the artisan created the cameo. When a piece has been triple carved it often boasts lovely hues of orange color if carved Carnelian shell or perhaps a rich chocolate brown if it was rendered from a hardstone. These colors accent and truly make the cameos one of a kind~
Habille- On occasion a Cameo carver will thread or add real jewelry to their masterpiece. This is when you will see the Habille term. It’s a tremendous skill to drill through the (already) carved shell to add real gems. When the carvers take on this task it is truly daunting as there is a very real possibility that the cameo could break. All their work gone in an instant! Usually master artisans took on this practice. The most common Habille is diamonds, however I have seen other gemstones along with pearls used to accent and adorn the shells.
Commesso- This is a very special kind of cameo where enamel actually graced the shell. Some of the patterns were quite elaborate and these cameos usually fetch top dollar depending on the quality of carving and condition. Such work was popular in the mid 1800s and it’s such a treat when one can add a Commesso into their collection that has little to no loss of enamel~
Gossamer- A term which means VERY thin in regards to the shell. These cameos often have lines which do not necessarily mean damage, but can very likely be original to the shell.
Relief- When someone mentions a cameo’s relief, they are simply giving an idea of how raised the cameo is from the base of the shell. There are some wild examples of cameos that have HIGH relief giving an almost 3D effect! So neat to see, however the relief of a cameo does not have to be great for it to be a GREAT cameo–
I hope this little dictionary of terms has helped! Now you will feel like a seasoned collector when browsing Ruby Lane’s cameo listings and reading the descriptions.
Joy’s Tiny Treasures on Ruby Lane is run by Joy Korzenko and Re-located from Long Island, New York to Fort Mill, South Carolina last year. Specializing in Antique Cameos & Portrait miniatures I strive to offer Top-Notch customer service and a Fresh selection that is ever changing I pride myself on keeping inventory that suites all Collector’s taste’s and budgets too~ Something for everyone! Layaways are encouraged, so please do come browse~ Open 24-7 for your shopping convenience