Record Auction Prices for Cameos

Hardstone Agate cameo Brooch Pin with five layers

Lot 21 Bonhams Cameo Brooch 100000 dollars

Caroline Bonaparte Cameo sells for a record price of $67000 at Bonhams auction in 2015.

Notable not just for the craftsmanship evident throughout, but for it’s historical value. The brooch sold for nine times the estimate.

This is a late 18th/ early 19th century hardstone cameo brooch designed and carved by Nicolo Morelli.

A patron of the Bonaparte family, it was given to a relative of the vendor by Caroline Bonaparte, younger sister of Napoleon I who was married to the King of Naples.

The brooch went to auction with a pre-sale estimate of 6,000-8,000, displaying a remarkable 545.6% increase in the London showroom.

The intricate cameo brooch was given by Caroline, Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger sister, to a distant aunt of the consignor.

Bonaparte was godmother to Caroline Moore, whom she met while in Trieste following the execution of her husband, Joachim Murat. Murat was one of Napoleon I’s generals and later became the King of Naples from 1808-1815. Known as “The Dandy King” due his flamboyant style, he was eventually executed by the forces of Ferdinand IV, the rightful king of Naples.

The exquisite brooch was designed by Nicolo Morelli, an engraverwho was patronised by the Bonaparte family. Finely carved in onyx, the broochshows the head of the god Bacchus, with a fruiting vine wreath entwined in his hair and a lion’s paw on his shoulder.

“Bonhams was delighted to offer a piece with such an unusual provenance,” commented Jean Ghika, director of the jewellery department in the UK and Europe at Bonhams.

“Morelli was a much admired gem-engraver and similar cameos by Morelli can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and British Museum in London.”


Suite of Hardstone Cameo Jewelry

antique cameo jewelry suite

Sold at auction at Christie’s, London in 2014 for $23,000. The estimate on this lot was $10000 – $15000

An important early 19th-century gold, hardstone and enamel parure, formerly belonging to Henriette Yardley Clark the wife of Dr John Yardley Clark, personal physician to Joseph Bonaparte.

The suite from 1830 has

  • A necklace composed of nine graduated oval agate cameo panels, the large central cameo carved as the head of Zeus in profile facing left, the remainder carved as the profile heads of a Bacchante with thyrsus, Flora, Diana and Psyche, each in gold frame mount with Swiss polychrome enamel scroll and flower motif decorative border to smaller connecting panel links each set with a similar agate cameo, 44.0cm long
  • A cameo diadem
  • Pair of cameo earrings
  • Two bracelets set with three cameos
  • A brooch pin set with a portrait cameo in shell of Dr John Yardley Clark, with matching gold and Swiss enamel borde

A World Record Price for a Cameo Glass

cameo-glass-record-price

Sold at auction at Bonhams, London in 2014 for $263,500.

The world record for cameo glass was broken by Thomas and George Woodall’s The Attack

The Attack, a cameo glass plaque by Thomas and George Woodall, has set a new world record at Bonhams May 1 auction of British and European Glass.

George Thomas Woodall The Attack glass cameo The Attack has a companion piece entitled The Intruders, which is more widely published

The plaque brought an impressive 169,250 ($263,255) to the auction. It was one of three records set during the sale, with a Venetian vase and a Beilby wine goblet also achieving record sums.

The Attack was crafted in 1896, its dark amethyst glass overlaid with white. It is carved with a Pompeian scene, in which two cupids – gods of desire – catch a semi-clad maiden unaware on her terrace.

Britons Thomas and George Woodall were apprentices to two artisans who were known for reviving the Roman tradition of cameo glass in the 19th century. The brothers continued their work, and while George was a local celebrity and achieved a good deal of success during his lifetime, Thomas was preoccupied with social reform and refused to sign his work, causing his name to be almost forgotten today.

This was the last piece they would collaborate on, with their relationship becoming strained in later years.

“Carved in the Roman manner The Attack is one of the finest pieces of Cameo glass work ever produced,” commented Simon Cottle, Bonhams’ European director of glass.

“Reminiscent of the priceless Portland vase created nearly two thousand years ago and which stands in the British Museum, this piece is in outstanding condition having always been in private hands. This piece may well hold the record for any piece of English glass ever sold at auction.”


High Price for a Hardstone Cameo Brooch

Hardstone Cameo brooch of Perseus

A late 18th/early 19th century agate cameo of Perseus, by Morelli. Sold for $25000

Oval, carved in low relief, depicting Perseus in profile, looking right, wearing scaled armour and the cap of invisibility, mounted as a brooch, with a yellow gold, blue guilloché enamel and half-pearl frame, signed MORELLI.

One half pearl is missing, cameo: length 4.7cm, width 3.8cm, brooch length 6.1cm


The Ceres Collection of Cameo and Intaglio Rings

Ceres Collection Cameo and Intaglio Rings

The Ceres collection of cameo rings achieved $489,000 at Bonhams London

The Ceres collection of cameo and intaglio rings has sold for 300,000 ($489,150) at Bonhams London, a 200% increase on its 100,000 ($163,050) estimate.

It consists of 101 pieces, some of which date to the 4th centuryBC.  The collection is both wearable and historically signficant, adding to its appeal to buyers

Marcus-Ring Ceres collection

Marcus Ring

The highlight was a red garnet intaglio ring displaying a profile of Roman leader Marcus Aurelius. It made $50,953, beating a valuation of $2,445 by 1,983%.

Emily Barber, director of jewellery at Bonhams London commented: “The Ceres Collection is probably the most significant collection of cameos and intaglios to be seen on the market for several generations.

“The strong selling prices achieved accentuate just how rare it is for collections of this type to come up for auction.”

The Ceres Collection was assembled by an American family over a period of 60 years, from the 1930s-90s. The collection provides a lesson in the history of cameos – the most ancient piece dates from the 4th century BC and others range from the Renaissance period right through to the 19th century.

Several gems depict the Roman deity Ceres, goddess of fertility and the harvest, who in turn, lends her auspicious name to the collection and heralds a fruitful September sale.

The engraved gems depict in miniature a broad range of subjects, from gods and goddesses of the ancient world, Greek and Roman mythological scenes to portraits of historical figures; Alexander the Great, Socrates, Julius Cesar, Hercules and Medusa are carved in intricate detail.

The entire Ceres collection of cameos is mounted into rings, making them extremely wearable pieces of jewellery, as well as items of historical importance.

Roman Cameo Lady Ring-side-thirdRoman Cameo of a Lady

A sardonyx cameo of a lady, Roman, 1st-2nd century AD Sold for $ 32,626.

The pièce de résistance of the collection is a cameo depicting a Roman lady of high rank, possibly the Empress Livia, wife of the Emperor Augustus.

The cameo gem, dating from 1st-2nd century AD, survives as a fragment which has been repaired with gold in a later “Roman” setting.

It was probably part of a much larger group portrait that could have decorated the home or a noble ancient Roman.

Cameo engraving reached its zenith during the Age of Augustus and this is a fine example from this era.

Other highlights from The Ceres Collection:

Other stunning examples include an 18th-19th century cameo of the emperor Tiberius, carved from a large piece of translucent orange hessonite garnet and estimated at £2,000-£3,000.

A Roman intaglio of Ceres, Goddess of fertility and harvest, with a cornucopia and an ear of corn is carved from red Cornelian stone. The intaglio is set in a 19th century gold mount (estimate £600-800).

A Roman intaglio of Diana, Goddess of the hunt, carved with her quiver of arrows in fire orange cornelian stone, dates from circa 5th Century AD. The stone set in a later Byzantine gold ring mount and is offered for £1,000-£1,500.

An ancient intaglio in garnet, carved with a head in profile, possibly of Demetrios King of Syria (162-150 BC), which is in its original gold ring mount is estimated at £1,500-2,000.

Richard Falkiner concludes, “There is a small pool of the finest examples of cameo and intaglio gems available, thus Bonhams’ sale of the Ceres Collection is an opportunity to own a gem from this magical subject. It is an opportunity which may not occur again from a very long time indeed”.

*Cameo – a carved object such as an engraved gem with raised (positive) relief image

**Intaglio – An engraved gem with the design cut into the flat background of the stone

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