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History of the Cameo for Modern Steampunks

| Posted in Cameo, Steampunk Clothing, Victorian Style | | No Comments

A Cute Cameo or Steampunk Brooch can really add interest to your Steampunk Outfit. We select many different types of Steampunk brooches and other jewellery in our Steampunk store to help you accessorise your look. Cameo's are a great Victorian favourite and we thought we would dig a little deeper into their history.

The most popular cameos today are carved in sea shells, a tradition that began in the fifteenth or sixteenth century and was popularized by Queen Victoria of England making cameo's a classic steampunk accessory. Since the time of Queen Victoria, cameos have predominately showcased women's profiles, and been worn by women who enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship of hand-carved cameos. Yet cameos have not always been decorative jewellery for women, in fact, at different points in history they have been worn as frequently by men. While the birthplace of the cameo was nearly 300 years before the birth of Christ in Alexandria, Egypt, cameos owe their origins to ancient carving traditions.

As far back as 15,000 BC, petroglyphs, figures carved into rock, were used to record significant events and communicate information. In ancient times people used cameos to depict an ethic or moral, or to make a statement about their faith or loyalties.In the centuries since, cameos have been used for various purposes and decorated with a wide range of carvings including:

  • Early Greek and Roman carvings featured images of gods and goddesses, themes from mythology, beautiful women and biblical events.
  • Many cameos through history depict living heroes or rulers.
  • In the Hellenistic era young women used cameos as charms to express desire. A woman could wear a cameo depicting a dancing Eros as a seductive invitation to love.
  • During the Renaissance, Pope Paul II was an avid cameo collector. According to history, this love ultimately led to his death. His excessive display of carved gems and stones on his fingers kept his hands so cold that he caught the chill that meant his death.
  • Cameos have been used on helmets and military accessories like breastplates and sword handles, on rings and other jewelry, and on vases, cups and dishes. 
  • Women began collecting cameos to prove cultural status during the Elizabethan period. At the same time, tourist travels to the ruins of Pompeii were on the rise and women began collecting shell and lava cameos as souvenirs to remember their travel.
  • During the 18th century, men purchased carved gems to mark their prestige and culture.
  • Cameos enchanted Napoléon, who wore a cameo to his own wedding and founded a school in Paris to teach the art of cameo carving to young apprentices. 
  • Not until the nineteenth century, when the popularity of shell cameos grew — reducing the use of hard-stones or agate — did profiles become as popular a subject matter as they are today.

We know how great Steampunk Came's look and so we source and select a great range of Cameo Style brooches for you to wear with your Steampunk clothing. Your Steampunk Cameos can be worn at the top of a high necked shirt or top, on a great jacket, add to a bag, purse or umbrella, or on gloves or as fastenings on shirts or corsets, or anywhere really just be creative. Along with Steampunk Victorian Cameos we also sell Cameo necklaces and Cameo earrings and other Victorian Cameo inspired products.

Our Cameo style brooches have great Steampunk themes like:

  • Hot Air Balloon Steampunk Brooch Cameo
  • Gas Mask Steampunk Brooch Cameo
  • Octopus Steampunk Brooch Cameo
  • Vintage Diver Steampunk Brooch Cameo


Click here for our full range of Steampunk Accessories and Jewellery


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