People have been carving cameos into glass, gems, shells and stones for centuries, millennia even. The art goes back at least to the ancient Romans and Greeks with stone cameos surviving from as far back as the 3rd century BC Greece. In ancient times cameos were often carved into large signet rings to be used as seals for documents, used as jewellery or even as keepsake portraits of loved ones. Today the art continues in small pockets around Italy, particularly in one third-generation family run shop in Venice. Lets take a look at how the Eredi Jovon jewellers are keeping cameo jewellery in Venice alive and well!
What is a cameo?
When most of us think of a cameo we imagine a carved object with a raised 3D image in relief don’t we? And it’s usually two-tone with a darker background and a classical image carved into the lighter coloured material on top. But did you know that cameos can also include a negative image or intaglio – usually used as a document seal in wax – carved into a piece of stone or shell too? The materials and methods to produce both are very similar however and the art continues to be a speciality in Italy to this day making jewellery and objet d’artes.
How to make cameo jewellery
Most cameo jewellery starts life as a gemstone, shell or stone. In the case of shells, cameo makers like the Jovon family look for examples that have 2 flat layers of contrasting colours so their design stands out better.
- First the basic shape is cut out in the scoppatura phase and then shaped or rounded in the aggarbatura phase. Many cameos, for example, will take an oval shape for a pendant, brooch or ring whilst other Jovon cameos are more freeform.
- The basic blank cameo is then fixed onto a wooden handle or grip with warm pitch to give the carver a steady surface to work on.
- Next is the when the design is marked onto the blank shell or stone.
- And then the carving begins. The carver brings their experience, skill and passion to the carving, looking to release the image from its shell or stone incarceration. It takes time and patience and cannot be rushed but the wonderful result is well worth the wait.
- Once the cameo is finished, the pitch fixing it to the grip is gently heated so the cameo can be released.
- The final stage is to mount the cameo in a silver or gold frame. And as you might expect from a quality jeweller like Eredi Jovon, they make each frame by hand to suit the individual cameo depending on its colouring, thickness and style.
And cameos come in a few different colour combinations, the most common of which are the orange/brown and white shell colours or blue and white variety from blue agate (my favourite!)
Portrait Cameos by Eredi Jovon
Historically cameos have often depicted portraits. The ancient Romans, for example, used cameos as an early type of photo, giving them as keepsakes or to potential lovers to illustrate their beauty. And today the Eredi Jovon specialises in beautiful portrait jewellery carving cameos from photographs of your loved ones, children or even pets.
The whole process can be done by email with you approving a drawing from your photo before any carving begins. It makes a very personal piece of jewellery and is a wonderful gift for friends and family alike.
The Eredi Jovon history
The Gioielleria Eredi Jovon, meaning the heirs of Jovon jewellers, cameo story starts in 1934 when Luciano Jovon, a cameo maker from Naples, decided to open a shop in Venice. He chose a location on the legendary Rialto Bridge, famous for its jewellery shops, hoping that it would give him and his beautiful work the best exposure. He was right!
Luciano’s son Bruno followed him into the family business in 1943 starting his apprenticeship in the shop’s nearby workshop aged just 13 years old. He grew up with a passion for making cameo jewellery in Venice and became a driving force for the business.
The 1950s saw a golden age for jewellery in Venice with many visitors making a bee-line for the Eredi Jovon collection as cameos enjoyed a revival in popularity. It helped Bruno to expand into coral jewellery too and in total he oversaw 55 years of business before he sadly died in 1998.
The business passed to Bruno’s wife Gabriella. And today Eredi Jovon, pronounced Yovon, continues to be a family business. Gabriella still works in the shop with son Marco, the third generation of Jovon cameo makers. Meanwhile more members of the family work in the 2 nearby Jovon workshops, one of which creates the cameos whilst the other makes the frames and settings. It’s a real family affair and you can feel the love when you walk into the shop!
For more information on the history of the Jovon family jewellers why not download Marco’s free eBook here.
Call in and say hello!
So if you’re looking for a unique momento of your trip to Venice or would like a keepsake of a loved one, why not pop into the Gioielleria Eredi Jovon jewellers on the St Mark’s side of the Rialto bridge and say hello to Marco and his mum Gabriella! They’ll be delighted to see you and to help you pick out the perfect piece of cameo jewellery. Or, if you can’t get to Venice, why not check out their website or drop them a message with a photo for a personalised cameo of your child or loved one? They’ll be only to happy to help! Leave me a comment to let me know what design or whose portrait you’d choose. And in the meantime, remember that each piece is hand-crafted so you’ll be taking home a totally unique cameo. Now that’s what I call a perfect souvenir!
All photos are copyright of the Gioielleria Eredi Jovon unless otherwise specified.
Note : My visit to the Gioielleria Eredi Jovon was hosted by A Taste of Venice and Vivo Venetia a sustainable tourism organisation promoting the real Venice and offering an easy way to book interesting tours of the city’s hidden gems. All opinions are my own, as always!
The post Hand carved cameo jewellery in Venice : a classic art first appeared on DreamDiscoverItalia.