Gorgeous Carved Shell Cameo by Giovanni Apa
Cameos and intaglios have been around for centuries ... back into the times of the Greeks and Romans, and even earlier to Biblical times. They were very popular during the end of the 18th and throughout the 19th century, and were coveted souvenirs of travellers to Italy in the late-1800 and into the early-1900s.
The images on cameos from early times were of mythical gods and mythological scenes. Kings, warriors and people of stature commissioned cameos in their likeness. Over time, the mythical images of specific gods and goddesses gave way to anonymous legendary characters, and later to artistic renditions of anonymous beautiful ladies, powerful warriors and bacchanalian scenes.
Early cameos were made primarily from hard stones and sardonyx. Today these cameos are rare and highly collected. Most of the cameos on the market today are carved on shells from the Mediterranean Sea by Italian artists, with a small fraction of 20th century cameos made from hard stones, lava or ivory. While some steps in producing cameos and coral jewelry have been taken over by machines in the 20th century, the carving is still done in the slow and painstaking way it was thousands of years ago. Another 20th century innovation in cameos is the molded plastic and glass cameos. While some are truly artistic and beautiful, most are cheap imitations of the sardonyx and shell cameos of the past.
The center of 20th century cameo art is Torre del Greco, Italy, a coastal city near Naples.Deborah Blumenthal, who writes for The New York Times Magazine, described a visit to the little village where these cameos are made: The quiet winding streets of Torre del Greco are lined with modest-looking multilevel homes. There are few sights or sounds of industry. Yet tucked away from view in home workrooms, basements and well-secured workshops, the residents of this small town, overlooking the Bay of Naples between Naples and Sorrento, are busily at work. Torre del Greco is the world's center for the carving of fine coral and cameos.
The Giovanni Apa company has been creating cameos and coral jewelry since 1848. The family run company offers a wide selection of the finest hand carved cameos and gorgeous corals produced by skilled craftsmen in Torre del Greco, and is considered the world leader in cameos. The gorgeous, carved shell cameo shown here is from Giovanni Apa. The detail is exceptional, from the wisps of hair to the sultry eyes to the pearl drop earrings and the delicate pearl necklace. This cameo is bezel set in an 18K yellow gold oval frame and has both a pin on the back and pendant bale. It is in excellent condition and includes its original box. Simply beautiful.