Quaintness and originality of thought, together with luxurious surroundings and adornments, are some of the signs of the times. Another phase is the craze of looking up and searching for old-fashioned jewellery. Cameo brooches, cameo earrings, curious cameo rings, all are seized upon with avidity, and, when discovered, immediate steps are taken to adjust them to modern uses and purposes.
One can imagine the amazement of the wearers of these old jewels if they could see the personalities of the twentieth century decked out in all the bravery of their happy, materialistic days. As one turns over the old treasures, a faint feeling of sadness seems to impress itself. A pair of cameo bracelets, perhaps, calls forth our kindly curiosity. The exquisite cameos, rose-pink and transparent, are set in gold, but the bracelets themselves are made of fine plaited silken hair. What pretty, dimpled wrists did they grace? one wonders.
A Lost Art
Many of us who possess cameos perhaps do not realise how interesting and ancient is the art of cameo engraving. Alas, now the art is a lost one, which fact makes us cherish all the more these specimens of engraved gems in our jewel-cases. What exquisite things they are ! We gaze down upon a delicate face, showing the minute markings of eyebrows, eyes, and the hair, with its delicate waving, held in place by a minute wreath of flowers. It is engraved upon a background of translucent grey stone, which shows up the delicacy of the work.
The Delicacy of Cameo Cutting
It was in the days of Alexander the Great, and in the East, that this art arose and flourished. It was the fashion to embellish even things in ordinary use with these exquisite gems, which were cut out of stratified agates-hard stones possessing different layers of colour, so that the head or features could be cut out of the first layer, the second layer might compose the floral background, whilst the third strata would compose the background. Minute and delicate must have been the fine tools which fashioned these gems, steady the sensitive fingers, and clear the eye of the artist. As one reflects upon such lost arts, one realises that progression has not been entirely on our side. If we have gained much, there are other things which have passed from us, though in years to come there may be a revival of cameo cutting. The art flourished and waned in those distant ages, to be called forth to light again during the Renaissance period, although, alas, never to become the art of old days, when the glory such as rosebuds or forget-me-nots of the Orient supplied the onyx stone, the sardonyx, with its strata of white and rose-tinged sard, or the transparent beauties of the chalcedonyx.
The Italians used various strata shells for their art, and the ordinary cameos, of which we are at present enamoured, are relics more often of the eighteenth century than of this earlier period.
So much for the romance of our old-world treasures. We find them in brooches, often so large that we have to lay them aside. In some of these brooches there are receptacles for hair, the hair itself having been cut away. We all know how charming a mounting is black velvet for cameos. It is, too, an admirable adornment for the wrist and throat, for not only does it throw up the delicacy of the engraved gem, but at the same time it enhances the whiteness of the wearer's skin.
Although we are rather inclined to follow custom like the proverbial sheep, another suggestion for the mounting of cameos may be of interest. It will, perhaps, already have been noticed how becoming is a touch of colour around the throat and wrists in the evening. So much so, that some prefer satin bands of the colour of their gown, finished off with a minute bow. To such, the charming effect of cameos on coloured satin for bracelets and the neck will appeal. For a white gown-once the pristine and particular glory of the debutante-choose bracelets of white satin. They may be made of simple white satin ribbon, but piece-satin is a little firmer and more substantial. A quarter of a yard will supply two dainty wristlets. Cut off two strips of the length desired, and double the width required. Fold the satin and machine each bracelet down the back on the wrong" side. Turn it to the right side. Press with a cool iron, so that the join will lie the wrong side, against the wrist. Some may prefer to wear these bracelets like slave bangles; if the arm is inclined to thinness above the elbow, this plan is to be recommended. Turn in the satin each end, and very neatly over-sew it. Two minute hooks and tiny eyes of silk must be sewn on to each bracelet.
Take the cameo and place it in the centre of the satin, and very faintly, whilst holding it down firmly, mark its size and position on the satin. Now apply an artistic decoration of minute old-world flowers, which may be painted in oil or water colour. The latter are certainly more dainty and transparent when for personal adornment. Sketch tiny flowers (such as forget-me-nots, which will look pretty) on to the satin. The flowers should look as if they had been scattered carelessly over the surface of the satin.
If you cannot draw, the flowers may be traced on before the satin is machined, but take care to mark lightly where the satin will be folded when it forms the bracelet, so that the design will be on the right side. Tint the flowers in soft shades of blue; a tiny French knot of gold thread may mark the centres effectively, or a scintillating gold bead, or a touch of yellow paint may be preferred. Tint the leaves and stems in shades of green. A soft-tinted background may be introduced, if desired, but the dead-white is also effective.
When the design is completed, the cameo may be stitched neatly on to its pencilled place. A quaint little satin bracelet will be the result. If the Christian name of the wearer happens to be that of a flower, it is a pretty conceit to wear such flowers on the satin bracelets.. The satin "dog-collar," when one or more cameos can be used, is made in the same manner.
Pale-rose satin bracelets should have a design of miniature moss-roses, and mauve satin bracelets look exquisite with violets carelessly painted over their surface, the cameo forming the distinctive finish.
An artistic bandeau for the hair could be made in much the same manner.
A neckband of satin, painted with flowers, and having a cameo as its centre, is an easily fashioned and becoming adornment.
White satin is a most suitable and effective background for such work