| You know the saying, “what once was old will be new again”, and when it comes to fashion, that has never been more accurate. This season, the cameo, a classic Italian hand-carved relief image, has been revived once more and given a contemporary spin that puts the chic back in antique. Tucked away with care in keepsake jewelry boxes and often passed down as family heirlooms, the cameo had just about been forgotten. Whether it’s due to a newfound interest in televised period dramas, such as Downtown Abbey and Mad Men, or the one of a kind vintage boutique that is being seen more frequently, the hunt is on to recapture these timeless treasures. |
| The origins of the cameo have a legacy dating back to the Greco-Roman era with a noted resurgence during the Renaissance. Creating art from carved stone is likely the oldest of all art forms, but cameos were in their greatest demand during the 19th and early 20th centuries. These carvings are done in relief, and typically designed in a two color scheme. In order to achieve the desired color, the artist would have to select a stone which had natural colored bands and carefully etch the image so that it would contrast with the background. Agate and onyx were later replaced by seashell and lava rock as the material of choice. Softer materials were favored since they increased production rates and required less precision to form. Mass produced cameos eventually incorporated bleaching to create a higher color contrast as well as a technique where two stones would be glued together to create a seamless cameo. |
Sophistication and femininity is being revisited this season; bows, delicate gowns, lace and embroidery have all reintroduced an air of romance and playfulness. Celebrities such as Dita Von Teese and Octavia Spencer have perfected the look, elevating many of their red carpet looks with a pill box clutch and chandelier earrings. Vintage accessories are rapidly gaining popularity in everyday wear as well. This adds even greater appeal to the cameo as it moves beyond its dated preconceptions. The traditional portrait of a woman has been updated (The Italian designer Miu Miu used a Mayan face placed into a baroque design for its spring collection) or replaced altogether with symbols (such as the skulls used for Paul Smith’s men’s collection). Modern day cameos are worn in a less serious way and new interpretations make the most of their clever placements and quirky designs.
| The once hand-crafted cameo is currently being reproduced using variousplastic molds or advanced laser technology. Designers have gone to great lengths to shed the traditionally monochromatic and uniform looks of the past. Cameos are now paired with boldly colored enamels and have even been featured in the bright neon hues of designer Tom Binn. Whether your vintage pieces are ready-to-wear or require some modern inspiration, remember that vintage jewelry is often rich in itself and should be used sparingly. A vintage pin or broach can easily add some old-Hollywood flair to a lightweight cardigan or crisp white blouse. The whimsical charm of these accessories allows you to be fashionable without being stuffy. A cameo will always be associated with classic symbology, but this fresh approach really gives you the best of both worlds; happy hunting! |
For even more fun with Cameos check out a few of these tutorials we found!
This tutorial uses Sculpy clay and teaches you how to make your own cameo.
Here is a video tutorial that uses Shrinky Dinks to make a brooch.
And just in case you were wondering how true cameos are created, here is a link to a wonderful video from an Italian Cameo factory that shows the artists process from start to finish.