What’s It Worth? The Vicissitudes Of Cameo Collecting

Publish Date: 

03/2016

Publication: 

  • Tampa Bay Times

Cameo collecting reached its peak in the 1980s with collectors clamoring for the finest, most deftly cut and interesting pieces – and some of them fetched $10,000  or more. Sadly, cameo collecting in 2016 is at its nadir – typically bringing 10 to 25 percent of the 1980s-era value.

Cameos were made by the millions in many cultures, notably in Italy, when back in the day, they were de rigueur for Grand Tour travelers. It seems everyone brought back simple shell cameos depicting a woman with a flower in her hair, set in cheap gold frames. At their height, they brought $300-$500; now returns fall more in the $75-$125 range. Sadly, damaged, cracked or plain cameos are often simply scrapped for their gold value, which breaks our heart.

Larger, elaborate shell cameos of outdoor scenes that are finely carved can still bring $200-$500, while the same would have brought $1,000  or more in the 1980s. Nowadays, even the most sought-after hard-stone cameos, made of onyx and sardonyx of the Victorian era, rarely bring in more than $300-$1,000 . Of course, there are exceptions that still bring four figures. We can help you identify them.