The history of the cameo is shrouded in distinction, with origins that date back to the beginnings of Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman cultures. While the tradition has traveled far and wide, Italy made its mark on the cameo industry early on and remains at the heart of it. “The artistry developed around Italy with its stretches of seashores, lava flows, and coral,” says Andrée Keil Moss, current owner of esteemed Keil’s Antiques in New Orleans.
A cameo involves any depiction carved in relief from myriad materials. The face of an anonymous Roman woman chiseled in white shell on a coral background has long been one of the most recognizable styles. The popular portrait has undergone many forms. Some of the earliest cameos feature mythical characters, and religious themes became prevalent during the 1800s. At that time, cameos began gracing household items such as French furnishings as well as Wedgwood jasperware produced in England.