A Cameo Appearance in Venice

March 10, 2016 / Art & Archaeology
Venezia, Veneto


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A cameo is an image or design that has been hand carved/sculpted in relief. Typically made from the corniola shell, these designs may be from photos or inspired by art, nature or the imagination of the artist. Due to the relatively soft and uneven surface of the shell, it must be sculpted by hand.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

After a design is chosen and work begins on this miniature and intricate work of art, patience and an eye for precise detail is required.. By its very nature of being sculpted by hand from a unique shell, every piece is exclusive and unique.

Using the same techniques as the Romans, the shell is held by wax on a hand tool and the white layer of the shell is removed to expose the chestnut brown. Once finished the wax is melted away. The finished piece is set in gold or sterling silver.

Photo by Victoria De Maio
Photo by Victoria De Maio
Photo by Victoria De Maio

Other materials lending themselves to carving cameo pieces are red coral and turquoise as well as agate and lava stone which are harder and can be carved partially by hand and by machine.

When in Venice you are sure to visit the iconic and crowded Rialto Bridge. Browsing the shop windows, one that will certainly catch your eye will have an exquisite display of cameos and jewelry…

Photo by Victoria De Maio

“Tradition is everything for us.”
– Marco Jovon

Step inside and you will be greeted by brothers Marco and Alessio who have managed the store and carried on the family tradition since the death of their father in 1988. For three generations, over 80 years, Eredi Jovon (the Jovon heirs) has honored a legacy of craftsmanship and professionalism established by their grandfather in 1934.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Although Venice is flooded with cheap souvenirs and imitations, seeking out and supporting artisans committed to their craft is important. The Jovons, who remain dedicated to providing superior quality and workmanship, are examples of this commitment.

(More Info: Eredi Jovon on the Rialto Bridge in Venice)

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Victoria De Maio

by Victoria De Maio

Victoria is a lover of all things Italian! A travel advisor, blogger, writer, tour leader, and published author, she is passionate about traveling to and writing about Italy.

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4 Responses to “A Cameo Appearance in Venice”

  1. Mary Cameron

    This Itaian Notebook is everything that is wonderful about Italy: history, art, craftsmanship, uniqueness, creativity. Through these “notes” we start our list of things to do and see on our next trip to Italy!

    • Victoria De Maio

      It is such a wonderful resource, isn’t it? Grazie for your comment & I do hope you stop by and visit Marco and his family in their wonderful shop…and, after all, it is Venice!

  2. Ginny Dias

    That was a very interesting article Victoria. I’ve often wondered on the technique used to create cameos. Thanks again for the resourceful notes.

    • Victoria De Maio

      Thank you, Ginny, for taking the time to read and comment…there are so many cheap imitations of cameos and so many other traditional arts that it’s important to acknowledge and support the authentic artisans such as Marco.
      It also makes each piece all the more special. I hope you will meet him one day, too!


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