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Antique Czech Bakelite Cameo Historically Interesting

Antique Czech Bakelite Cameo Historically Interesting


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Directory: Estate Jewelry: Costume: Bakelite: Pre 1930: Item # 1214017
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In terms of cameo history, here's the "missing link" between the type we think of as 19th century (despite including very early 20th century examples that continued the neoclassical or Art Nouveau style) and those that are decidedly 20th century, featuring the thoroughly modern, short-haired flapper girls of the 1920s and their successors.

Cameos of course mirror our changing standards of beauty and this particular design perfectly illustrates the spirit of the transitional period between Edwardian and Art Deco design eras. The young lady pictured here presents an entirely new vision of elegance. Her hair, while on the long side, is quite a lot shorter than was seen before the World War I, during which large numbers of women worked for the first time in roles other than domestic service. Hairstyles thus had to become more practical. Her attire also isn't idealized; it's no toga or fairy-like wisp, but quite easily recognizable as an evening gown, accented by an orchid corsage. And her face is that of a real person -- not just pretty, but strong and poised. There are no frou-frous in the background, either. Capping off the design breakthrough of the cameo is that it appears to be of carved shell, but is actually Bakelite, the thermoplastic that overcame celluloid's disadvantages (mainly fragility and flammability).

I saw this cameo once before - in celluloid, with more detailed features - so I'm inclined to date the Bakelite one a little later: to the 1920s, rather than slightly before. The gilt metal frame, however, is pure Edwardiana, dainty and graceful, with an old open "C" clasp right for the period. Framed size is about 2 inches by 1.5 inches and both cameo and frame are in lovely condition.

As a sort of fascinating side note, this jewel came from a collector in Budapest. She said she managed to make out a badly faded Czecho signature on the back. I haven't taken time to search for it, feeling no cause to doubt its origin, with a provenance like that.

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