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Victorian Lava Cameos

Lava Cameo Brooch of Renaissance Man

Lava Cameo of Renaissance Man

These two "lava" cameos (see second cameo below) are classic examples of Grand Tour souvenirs from the Victorian age.  During the Victorian era, wealthy families traveled throughout Europe on an extended vacation known as the Grand Tour.  One popular stops on the Grand Tour was the ruins of Pompeii.  As a souvenir of their travels, wealthy wanderers would often purchase lava cameos for themselves and also as gifts for loved ones back home.   The cameos often portrayed historical statesmen,  philosophers and dignitaries.

The top brooch, a rose gold oval tan lava cameo, pin depicts a Renaissance man with cap and long wavy hair and beard....perhaps a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci.

Lava Cameo Brooch of Philosopher. (J1343)

Lava Cameo of Poet or Philosopher

Our yellow gold oval gray lava cameo pin portrays a man in laurel wreath and hood.....possibly Dante or Petrarch.

Cost:  Although this brooch has sold,  you will find many more beautiful brooches in the Antique Brooch Gallery.

Measurements:   Both brooches are 1.375" high and 1.125" wide.


End view of lava cameo (J1343) This end-on view of the Renaissance Man lava cameo shows the fabulous depth and detail of the carving. This is actually one of my favorites because the cameo has wonderful depth and dimensionality. You can even see the wrinkles on his forehead as he frowns, and the long wavy hair of his beard.

Also notice the traditional Victorian "c" clasp and the nice heavy wall of the plain bezel holding the cameo.

The bezel is nice and thick,  certainly heavy enough to protect this wonderful cameo for many more generations.  It's hard to believe that this cameo is over 100 years old but it's true!  This cameo as well as the gray lava cameo were made during the middle Victorian era, circa 1870.




back view of lava cameos (J1343) The back of the brooch has a flat somewhat broad rim with an open center. Each brooch also has a pin stem that extends well beyond the edge of the jewel, another classic trademark of Victorian brooches.


An interesting historical side light is that cameos like these have been traditionally referred to as "lava" cameos.  However, they are not actually carved in lava, but rather the dark colored limestones that are indigenous to the region around Pompeii.  We suspect that the local jewelers and carvers of the 1800s used the romance of Pompeii's volcano and lava flows in an effort to sell there wares.  Caveat emptor!


Here are a few more elegant jewels from the past ...

Art Nouveau sapphire stickpin. (J9309)Hans Brassler Egyptian Revival brooch. (J9341)Hans Brassler star brooch. (J9329)



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