The earliest known use of shell for cameo carving was during the 15th and 16th centuries. Before that, cameos were carved from hardstone, such as sardonyx or agate. Hard stone cameos are much more difficult to carve than shell which is a significantly softer material. Most shell cameos were carved in Naples, Italy while the hard stone cameos were cut primarily in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. 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.
A beautiful hardstone cameo ring from the Victorian (ca1880)! Crafted in 14kt rose gold, this lovely piece adorns a rectangular shaped sardonyx cameo at the center of a unique setting. The raised cameo showcases the profile of a beautiful young woman's face and features intricate details, including an ornate updo embellished with a hair piece, a beaded necklace, and the draped fabric of her dress below her neckline. The white layer of matte stone depicting the portrait creates a perfect contrast against the dark, smoothly polished background. Surrounding the stone are rose gold square shaped accents, including a pair at the top and bottom and 4 lining either side, creating a fabulous and unique mounting. The wide shoulders are embellished with an elegant and bold etched design that trails onto the band, which wraps around the back and stamped inside of the shank is the original inscription, "JH to CK" written in a lovely script. A gorgeous Victorian ring that blends seamlessly into modern fashion, it would make a wonderful addition to any collection!
Measurements: The ring has a finger size 8, but could be resized. The centerpiece measures approximately 5/8" tall, about 3/8" wide, and rests a little less than 1/4" above the finger when worn. The band measures 4.5mm wide at the back.
Condition: The ring is in overall good antique condition. Besides normal surface wear, there is no apparent damage to the rose gold setting. There is a small chip at the nose of the cameo portrait, which is not immediately apparent and the ring still presents an overall impressive design. The rest of the carved cameo is free of any noticeable chips or scratches.