Antique Victorian Cameo Brooch circa 1890
Antique Victorian Cameo Brooch circa 1890, set in gilt metal. The naturally domed helmet shell with a hand-carved depiction of a classical male figure, set in a substantial carved metal frame with applied scroll decoration at each quarter. Length 5.5cm. Width 4.2cm.
Cameos: Newly discovered in the West Indies in the mid 18th Century, Helmet shells, as the name suggests resembled bonnets or helmets. This new supply of material, along with Conch shells from the same area, sparked a big increase in the number of cameos carved. After 1850, demand for cameos grew, as they became popular souvenirs of the Grand Tour among the middle class. Classically the designs carved onto cameo were either scenes of Greek or Roman mythology or portraits of rulers or important dignitaries.
Cameos were considered “smart” jewellery because of the intellectual nature of the subject being carved. Tourists on holiday, viewing the full-sized artworks, were delighted to take home a wearable miniature version as a remembrance.
Condition: Small lead solder repair to catch. Gilt wash is worn and base metal showing through at top of brooch surround. Some verdigris, evident in additional photographs.