The earliest known use of shell for cameo carving was during the 15th and 16th centuries. Before that, cameos were carved from hardstone. The Renaissance cameos are typically white on a grayish background and were carved from the shell of a mussel or cowry. In the mid 18th century, explorations revealed new shell varieties. Helmet shells from the West Indies, and queen conch shells from the Bahamas arrived in Europe, thus sparking a big increase in the number of cameos that were carved from shells.
An absolutely exquisite hard stone agate cameo bracelet from the Victorian (ca1880) era! Sometimes called banded agate, this 3-cameo bracelet is made with 14kt yellow gold and adorns natural pearls. One very large cameo face rests at the center of the piece and depicts a classic creamy white image of the profile of a beautiful woman's face. She has a blackish brown floral detail in her hair and a 3-dimensional look. The ornate detail portrayed in the cameo is simply exceptional with feminine locks of hair and a wonderful expression on her face. On each side of the center cameo are two smaller cameos which share the same black and white carved hardstone image of a woman. All three of the cameos are surrounded by a matching frame of natural pearls and then an ornate 14kt gold frame with intricate wirework and beadwork. The bracelet is hinged on each side of the center cameo and has a wide gold mesh band on the underside. The clasp is detailed with a simple wirework design and there is a safety chain for added security. A very unusual and fantastic piece, this bracelet would make a wonderful addition to any collection!
Measurements: The center cameo, including the gold frame, measures approximately 2 1/4" tall, a little less than 2" wide and has a depth of 3/4". The 2 outer cameos, including their gold frames, measure approximately 1 1/4" tall, a little more than 1" wide and have a depth of 3/8". The entire length of bracelet is 6 7/8" long.
Condition: The overall condition of the bracelet is excellent. Besides normal surface wear, there is no apparent damage to any of the cameos or to the gold setting and all of the pearls are intact. The clasp and safety chain is secure and in good working condition.