Antique cameo jewelry has been in style for centuries. Genuine antique cameo rings are hand-carved in relief and made of shell or other natural substances such as ivory, lava, glass, agate, coral and stone. The foreground is a silhouette or face, while the background is a different-colored layer. The raised relief of the cameo or silhouette itself is what distinguishes a cameo antique ring from an inferior imitation. The antique method of making a cameo ring is often called “high relief.” An antique cameo ring is worth as much as what the market is willing to offer.
Different Period Antique Cameo Rings
Look at your cameo ring. What kind of scene does it have? Cameo rings made in the 1800’s with mythological motifs, natural scenes in background and portraits of actual historical figures are considered valuable. Prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Is your cameo made from genuine gold or silver? Use a magnifying glass to look inside the band for any maker’s marks or karat weight to help determine value. Old gold and silver cameo rings without karat weight markings were made before 1906. Look in guidebooks in the reference section of your local library to determine different time period cameos. One of the best resource guides is "Cameos: Old & New" by Anna M. Miller and Diana Jarrett, Gemstone Press, 4th edition.
Hand made vs ultrasonic machines. Techniques used to make the cameo ring also determine value. Craftsmanship is key. Traditional style hand-carved cameo rings were finely detailed. Look at your ring. Look at the silhouette. Is the hair wavy and finely detailed? The hand-carved ones are particularly detailed because cameo jewelry making was considered an art form before the advent of machines. Inferior cameos will not have fine detail or craftsmanship.
Imitations and synthetic cameos vs antique. Cameo rings made from plastic are cheaply inferior as opposed to high-relief antique cameo rings. Look at your ring. Inferior cameos are unmarked or might even say "Made in Japan" or "Made in Hong Kong." Look at the frame surrounding the ring. On antique cameo rings, the frame or setting would be made from genuine gold and silver. Different types of gold were used for different time periods as well. For example, white gold was used during the Art Deco period.
Buying and selling. Where will you be selling your ring? Online auctions, flea markets, estate sales, high end boutiques, to a jeweler, pawn shop, through a classified ad? These factors all have to be taken into consideration when appraising for worth. A dealer may not give you as much because they will want to resell the antique cameo ring to make a profit.
Getting a professional appraisal online: You can send in pictures of your cameo ring to knowledgeable dealers who can help you get a better idea of current market value. Check out http://cameojewelry.com/
Rare natural materials
Red coral vs shell is more valuable. Look at your ring. Do you think it may be made of coral or shell? Take it to a professional appraiser and study guidebooks to see what antique coral and shell cameos look like. Red coral would be smooth and somewhat of an orange red in color, not dark red. Lustrous pearls and quality diamonds adorning an antique cameo ring add to its value.