cameo (kămˈēō) [key], small relief carving, usually on striated precious or semiprecious stones or on shell. The design, often a portrait head, is commonly cut in the light-colored vein, and the dark one is left as the background. Glass of two colors in layers may be cameo-cut; a famous Roman example is the Portland vase. The art originated in Asia as a decoration on the reverse side of seals. The Greeks were noted for their exquisite designs and cutting on jewelry and on decorations for jewel caskets, vases, cups, and candelabra. The Romans were adept cutters, and Rome remains a center of experts in this art. The art was revived during the Renaissance, and cameo jewelry was a vogue of the Victorian era.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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