Cameo is usually a gem (commonly agateonyx, or sardonyx) having two different coloured layers, with the figures carved in one layer so that they are raised on a background of the other. Worn as a symbol of status by men and women since antiquity, the motifs that feature on antique cameos range from ancient mythological scenes to religious iconography, Renaissance art to official portraits. It wasn’t until the early 19th century, when Empress Joséphine was painted wearing a cameo jewellery, that cameos entered the realm of fashion. They were made up and down the coast of Italy for the upper classes embarking on the Victorian tradition of the “Grand Tour” to take home as a souvenir. Queen Victoria, a prolific jewellery lover, is credited with keeping the trend alive in Britain throughout much of the 19th century.

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