In very broad terms, the difference between a cameo and an intaglio is whether the gem engraving is cut into the stone or raised up from the stone. This is a very short post about which is what.
I have always adored intaglios, the carved “into” gemstones. They are experiencing a resurgence in popularity so if you have one, bring it out!
Strictly speaking, engraving means carving in intaglio (the design is cut into the flat background of the stone). En relief (raised) carving means the design projects out of the background of the stone, exploiting the layers of a colored gemstone, which is a cameo.
The two carving styles are the opposite of each other. The intaglio came first, tracing back to the Sumerian period in Mesopotamia, circa 5000 B.C. The intaglio was highly functional and could be impressed in damp clay or wax to indicate ownership of sealed objects. A finely carved seal was practical, as it made forgery difficult. The distinctive personal signature did not really exist in antiquity.
Glass intaglios and cameos have been around since 25 B.C. Glass has always been a more affordable alternative than hard stone and is still very popular today.
The cameo was purely ornamental and did not make its appearance until the Hellenistic period about the third century B.C. Over the centuries, the cameo became an adored form of jewelry.
The cameo’s emergence in the Greek world took place after the conquests of Alexander the Great and was due to the influence of the newly acquired territories from the Persian Empire which enabled the Greeks to acquire the Oriental fashion for mounting precious stones in their jewelry. Both the onyx and sardonyx were stones admirably suitable for cameo production due to their stratified layers of light and dark stone.
Elizabeth Locke intaglio bracelet
Amadeo ‘See No Evil’ cameo ring.
Mazza’s blue glass intaglio ring.
Tagliamonte mother of pearl three graces cameo pendant.
Mazza venetian glass fresh water pearl and sapphire gold earrings.
Victorian Lava Cameo Bracelet
Elizabeth Gage hardstone intaglio brooch.
Which do you prefer?