Exquisitely carved and beautifully set, cameos deserve a starring role in your collection

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In Roman and Renaissance times, cameos were popular with men looking to add a little oomph to their cabinets of curiosities – and their own cultured credentials.

As the Grand Tour took off, more and more travellers were taken in by the superb carvings and the delicate Classical scenes, and soon women had claimed them as jewellery.

Heavier hardstones such as onyx or agate were worn for day, and lighter, less expensive shell parures for evening, with the settings (often added in Britain) partly dictating the cost. Though cameo making is now a dying art, happily, their beauty endures.

Clockwise from top left: Coral brooch, £1,950; agate cameo, £2,900; shell cameo, £450; Whitby jet brooch, £850 with earrings (not shown); shell cameo earings, £850; shell cameo, £550; shell cameo, signed Saulini, £1,450; agate earrings, £750, all from Michele Rowan & Charlotte Sayers.Silk ‘LF707c/3’, £23.20 per m, Linwood. Stockists, page 156