A cameo is produced from a piece of shell, engraved by skilful hands. First the rough outside is scraped off. After this, the artisan draws the subject to be produced on the surface of the shell. Then, using different sized burins he engraves the shell, and gives so birth to a relief in the white layer of the shell (the second one). The orange layer (the third one) is the background for the relief.
Cameo and coral are both very old handicrafts, as corals could be fished in the bay of Naples, as well as in the other southern regions on Tyrrhenian Sea. Coral fishing was made too long and intensively, that’s why there are no corals in this bay or in Southern Italy anymore. Neapolitan artisans have to buy them now from Asia.
The town where most of the cameo artisans live and work is Torre del Greco, about 15 minutes car drive from Naples, at the feet of Vesuvius volcano.
The tradition of engraving coral and cameo is still alive, mostly due to a school in Torre del Greco: since it was founded 1878 (once as “Royal School for Corals”), young students need five years to learn how to manufacture wonderful jewels in coral or cameo.
In this photo you see one of my cameos (set in a frame of turtle shell) and my necklace made of coral points – wonderful in summer on my tanned skin!