THE ART OF THE CAMEOS +1 (360) 319-1944

During the classical Greek culture, they developed the technique of engraving two-colour agate and the cameo became very popular. Like many other inventions the Romans took over the technique of engraving layered agate. Still famous are the portraits of Caesar and other famous rulers from that time.

During the renaissance era the engraving became very popular again after a long quite period. It was appreciated by aristocracies of Europe. The rough stones came from the mine in Idar-Oberstein. Later on people engraved Ladies of the Victorian era were used and made for pendants, broaches and rings.

First, the stone cutter eliminates the rounded back of the rough agate so that they can cut plates according to the natural layers in the stone. After that the colouring or dyeing process has to be done using honey, sugar and heat treatment. This procedure is a well kept secret which has been passed on through generations and this is the reason why this industry is only carried out in this small German city.

After the colouring process plates or blanks are cut to different shapes and sizes avoiding the cracks and inclusions.

In the 14th century the mine for agate was opened in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. Around 100 years ago German immigrants to Brazil found the same kind of stone in a higher quality in the potato fields of Rio Grande do Sul.

These agate stones were loaded onto empty freight tankers on their way back from Brazil, free of charge as "ballast". Because of this, the mine in Idar-Oberstein was closed due to the much cheaper and easier harvesting in Brazil.

The rough stones are opened with a hammer to find out whether they are layered or not. Only 3%- 5% of the raw material can be used for the production of Cameos.

Around 30 years ago technicians found a way to carve Cameos by machine using ultrasonic power reproducing the designs exactly. However, every design still requires a hand carved masterpiece which can take weeks to produce from the original idea, through alterations, until the final product is approved.

Once approved the ultrasonic production can begin but it still requires a lot of manpower by trained carvers working on self developed machinery with limited production to ensure accuracy of the design.