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Cameos: technique and craftsmanship


Cameos, artistic masterpieces created strictly by hand, require long and patient processing steps. Let us briefly look at them together…

The first stage of cameo making is the selection of the shell, then‘bursting,’ that is, cutting off the upper part, the ‘cup.’

Next comes ‘scoring‘ and ‘shaping,’ outlining the profiles of the cameos and removing superfluous parts.

We then proceed to ‘aggarbatura,’ which involves giving the piece the desired shape, oval or round, through the use of a special grinding wheel.

The resulting pieces are fixed on a wooden spindle with hot mastic, composed of Greek pitch, wax and scagliola (hence the expression for this stage: ‘pitching‘), and follows the operation of ‘peeling‘: the outside of the shell is abraded to bring out the clear layer to be etched.

The engraver draws the subject to be reproduced on the surface and then, with special burins, engraves the shell until the perfect cameo sculpture is obtained.

Finally, the cameo is polished with pumice and oil to smooth the surface and then washed with soap and water and dried with a white linen cloth-it is ready to be displayed in jewelers’ windows.

The jewelry in the photo is made bycreative artisan Sergio Nicolini

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