…the traditional definition of a cameo is a piece of jewelry Carved in Relief in stone or shell.

If a cameo is made of lava, it is almost certainly Victorian.

If the cameo is mounted as a brooch, carefully examine the pin and hook. Safety catches are a 20th century adaptation. If the cameo has one, then it is either not older than the early 1900s or a new catch has been added. If it is an addition, this can usually be ascertained by more careful examination. Look for signs of soldering. Often the new catch is attached to a small plate jointed to the back of the brooch. Next look closely at the pin and notice what kind of hinge it has. If the sharp point of the pin extends past the body of the brooch, it is an ‘oldie.’
Gold, silver, pinchbeck, gold filled, cut-steel, and jet were some of the materials used for mounting cameos.  Pinchbeck is an alloy of copper and zinc used to create brass that resembles gold. The type of metal used can often give an indication of when it was made. If the mounting is pinchbeck, it was probably made between the early 1700s and the mid-1800s. Gold electroplating was patented in 1840 so, if the piece was plated, it was made after that date. Nine-karat gold was legalized in 1854, and a piece in 9k would have to be made after that date. A popular metal used for mountings in the 1880s was silver, but this does not mean that all cameos mounted in silver were made at that time.

Some materials used to make cameos….

Bog Oak…wood preserved in bogs of Ireland and used to make jewelry during the Victorian era.

Gutta-percha…a hard rubber material made from the sap of a Malayan tree. Discovered in the 1840’s, it was used for making jewelry, statuary, and furniture.

Lava…lava from Mt.Vesuvius, usually carved into cameos or intaglio’s.

Conch shell, Ivory, and stone….

Other materials have been used in the later cameo jewelry…since I don’t deal or collect those pieces I will address them if the need arises.
To test for cracks and to view the transparency of shell cameos, simply hold them to the light.

Additional Info

Silver jewelry can be made from near pure silver (99.9% silver known as “fine silver”) or one of any number of alloys. Fine silver (99.9%) jewelry is somewhat uncommon. The most common silver alloy used in jewelry today is “Sterling” silver, which consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% some other metal (often copper, but sometimes zinc). The majority of silver jewelry in the United States, and most developed nations, is made from “Sterling” (92.5%) or finer silver.




Sterling Silver

Sterling Silver has been around since forever, however, the standard for a guarantee was not put in place until 1300… King Edward I of England enacted a statute requiring that all silver articles must meet the sterling silver standard (92.5% pure silver)
Hallmarks are often confused with “trademarks” or “maker’s mark”. Hallmarks are not the mark of a manufacturer to distinguish his products from other manufacturers’ products, which is the function of trademarks or makers’ marks. To be a true hallmark, it must be the guarantee of an independent body or authority that the contents are as marked. Thus, a stamp of ‘925’ by itself is not, strictly speaking, a hallmark, but is rather an unattested fineness mark. The 925 represents .925 (92.5%) pure silver…which is the benchmark for sterling silver.
Sterling marked with ND after the 925…ND stands for Norwegian Design…..Regarding the value, the Norwegian Design is significantly more valuable because of the artistry, identification of the artist by way of the hallmark (signature or marking) and limited production. ( compared to sterling produced in Thailand which is basically anonymous and mass-produced.) The 925 represents .925 (92.5%) pure silver…which is the benchmark for sterling silver.
Vintage Mexican Silver or Silver made in Mexico is some of the most sought after among jewelry collectors, dealers, and those who know and love Vintage quality.
Pure silver is mined primarily in Mexico….names such as Taxco ( highly sought in the dealer/collector circle) Los Castillo ( one of the best silver shops in Mexico, speaks to the region of mining/crafting…most quality silver is marked in this manner…some will have the maker/designer’s name …such as Hector Aguilar, William Spratling, etc.
In the first half of the 20th century silver items manufactured in Mexico were marked simply “silver” or “sterling”. Usually a location (Mexico or a town name) and silver fineness (925, 925/1000, 980) was included. In 1948 the Government of Mexico promoted the reintroduction of the “eagle mark” to identify the manufacturers of silver items. The “eagle” was stamped with a number associated to a silver manufacturing company. This system was unsuccessful, eagle stamps were misused or “loaned” to more than one artist of maker and was abandoned in the 1980s. It was substituted by the “letter and number” system still in use. In the “Letter and number” system a letter identifies a location (T for Taxco, M for Mexico City), the second letter is the first letter of an individual’s first or last name of the maker. The number is the number of registration of the maker .


Carnelian is a brownish-red mineral which is commonly used as a semi-precious gemstone. Similar to carnelian is sard, which is generally harder and darker. Both carnelian and sard are varieties of the silica mineral chalcedony colored by impurities of iron oxide. The color can vary greatly, ranging from pale orange to an intense almost-black coloration. It is most commonly found in Brazil, India, Siberia, and Germany.
Carnelian is one of the oldest known gemstones, with written records dating back over 4000 years. It was highly prized and worn by many of the world’s noble people throughout ancient times. Carnelian holds a very special place in the Christian religion. According to holy scriptures, carnelian was one of the twelve gemstones worn on the breastplate of Aaron, the first high priest of the Israelites and a prophet. Carnelian also played significant roles in ancient Greek, Roman and Babylonian cultures. In fact, it was popularly worn in amulets and talismans, and commonly used for the making of insignia rings and seals.
Beware** Recently, natural carnelian has become extremely rare and in order to keep up with demand, many carnelian stones are actually agate stones that have been dyed and heated to obtain their carnelian colors. Do your research before paying high prices for semi-precious stones….regardless where you purchase.

Caring for Antique Jewelry

Caring for antique jewelry is very easy but very important for long term life.

Never put commercial jewelry cleaner on antique pieces. Instead, gently wipe with a soft, non-acidic cloth to clean.

A damp cloth with non-chemical water is ok if the piece is very soiled, such as with food or drink.

Wipe gently and dry completly.

Store in a soft cloth or acid free lined storage box.

Don’t use hairspray or perfume after you have put your jewelry on.

Some simple care will keep your favorite pieces beautiful and valuable for many years to come.