SOLD: Victorian carved shell cameo in rose gold, circa 1900

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Cameos, particularly brooches, had become so fashionable by the late 19th and early 20th centuries that many have survived today.

Thirty years or so ago the market in them was strong, with enthusiastic Japanese buyers paying bullish prices for all levels of quality.

Now prices have dropped back, leaving rich ground for collectors at the less expensive end of the market.

Here’s a typical turn-of-the-century example – a bacchante – in profile, with wild tresses adorned with grapes and grape leaves.

She’s set in a delicate but sound nine-carat rose gold frame accented with tiny buds and leaves.

Noses are important in cameos. They’re often the first thing to chip, so beware of flat noses – they didn’t usually start life like that.

And they can indicate age too – most new, machine-engraved cameos give their maidens upturned and cute girlish ones.

Beware of cracks, as they make a big difference to price. So always hold shell examples up to the light to check them.

The quality of the carving is the most important determiner of price. There is no shortcut to learning this.

So if you are interested in cameos but not sure where to start, examine as many as possible, perhaps concentrating on details with a similar subject, then homing in on particulars – for example, the fineness of facial features, the movement of hair and the flow of drapery.

It won’t surprise you to hear that pretty young females, as in this cameo, are more sought-after than less attractive examples.


• Handmade in nine-carat rose gold
• Approximately 4.7cm (almost 2 inches) long, 3.7cm (1 1/2 inches) wide
• Weight is 11 grams
• In excellent antique condition
• Will come in a Karen Deakin gift box (my antique boxes are not for sale)
• Note: the other antique brooch has sold

Please examine the photographs carefully – they form part of the description.

I’d be very happy to send more information and images.

I accept returns within 14 days if you’re not delighted with your purchase.

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I accept returns within 14 days if you’re not delighted with your purchase.

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