Recently, a woman was in the shop and asked, "What is that carved pendant with the face of a lady that my grandmother always wore? She said it was very old. Is it worth anything?"
The piece she described is called a cameo. Cameos are pieces of jewelry, usually oval in shape, carved in a raised relief image from glass, hard stones or shells. They will feature a landscape, mythological figure or most commonly, a portrait. The 19th century was the most well-known era for collecting cameos. A desire for wearable cameos rose with the popularization of costume jewelry in the 20th century, but are still seen in many contemporary jewelry designs as well. Real cameos, those carved from natural stones or shells, have value as long as the design is intact and crisp and there are no chips or cracks to the material. These pieces are often set in gold or sterling silver and can bring a good price, depending on the metal used and the intricacy of the carving. If the piece is signed it can affect value as well. Skilled artists normally sign their work and a piece done by a well-known carver could significantly increase the value of your cameo! Costume jewelry cameos, those made from molded plastic or resin that are set in base metals, are not hand carved and not worth as much as their natural counterparts.
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