Cameo jewelry has a long and proud history. Researchers have discovered examples of this finely carved jewelry dating back to the third century BC. Talk about a jewelry trend that lasts!
People have often asked us, “What does cameo mean?” Many people think that the term cameo refers to a certain type of stone or gem, but this is not the case. Cameo actually means “an image carved in positive” – if an image appears beneath, engraved into a surface, it is known as an intaglio – and many different types of material can be used. Stone and shell are the most common.
One particularly popular type of cameo is the cornelian shell cameo. You can see a great example in the picture to the right. This large cameo pin/pendant is a 1 3/4″ X 1 1/2″ silver banded beauty that features two finely rendered white bridled horses. Hand carved in southern Italy by Balzano and authenticated by Gennaro Borriello, this is an exquisite example of cameo horse jewelry. It’s important to understand that the majority of cameos feature images of people, often classic figures from antiquity. Finding horse cameo jewelry is a rare delight.
We mentioned that this horse cameo pin is made of cornelian shell. This makes it one of the most traditional types of cameo. Ever since ancient days, East Africans have gathered Bullmouth Helmet snail shells from the sandy ocean shores. These shells are cleaned and sent to Italy, where the most skilled craftsman do the painstakingly precise carving you see here.
For lovers of fine horse jewelry, it is wonderful to have a cameo horse pendant that connects so closely with one of the world’s richest jewelry traditions. Did you know that Julius Caesar once presented Cleopatra, the love of his life, with a cameo shell as a token of his affection? Certainly your love of horses deserves no less a tribute!