By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
Have you ever seen a cameo pendant or brooch in which the subject is actually wearing a pendant or a brooch? These cameos are habille’ cameos. “Habille’” is a French word. Paired with the word, “cameo”, it means a dressed cameo, or a cameo wearing jewelry.
Habille’ is prounounced (ah-bee-yeh) in French. Lots of silent letters, I know. It’s hard for me to remember this pronunciation, too, as I took German in high school. German has no such silent letters! Just remember (as I do) when you see the term, “cameo habille’” or “habille’ cameo”, it means a cameo with jewelry. Pronouncing it properly is another story!
Cameos have been favorite human adornments since the days of the Pharaohs of Egypt. So I’m sure cameos wearing jewelry have been around for just as long. But the term seems relatively new. In fact, you’ll probably come across references to Victorian cameos wearing jewelry as the first to carry the actual title, “cameo habille’”.
Also, note that the term “cameo habille’” refers to a cameo actually adorned with detachable jewelry such as a sterling silver collar with a diamond pendant. These are the most frequently seen and were very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
A cameo with carved jewelry is not considered a cameo habille’. So cameos with carved beaded necklaces or carved hair ornaments or carved earrings; i.e. items that can’t be detached from the cameo; are not considered part of the club.
When you come across a cameo habille’, don’t fret if you don’t see the little mark over the “e” in “habille’.” A cameo habille is the same thing as a cameo habille’. It’s just that one way is true to the French origin of the term, and one is Americanized.
Do all cameo habille’s contain real diamonds and precious metals in their jewelry? No, especially modern renditions. If you want to learn more about cameos in general, check some of out some of the fabulous references at the end of this article. Also, I’ve written a few previous blog posts on them like, "Can You Tell A Real Shell Cameo From A Fake?" and "Is That Cameo Real or Fake?"
Now, please don’t think I don’t approve of modern plastic and resin cameos. Costume jewelry pieces can be quite lovely, especially grouped in a collection. My intent in previous articles was to provide the means to tell what the material of the cameo you are inspecting is made from. Obviously, I wouldn’t want you to pay a hard stone (the most expensive) or shell cameo price when you are dealing with a resin cameo!
Antique Jewellery, by John Benjamin, Antique Collectors' Club Ltd., (2003)
Popular Jewelry: 1840-1940, by Roseann Ettinger, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., (2002)
Do you own any cameo habille’s? If so, please tell us about them in the comments section and don’t forget to subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss an article!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems and jewelry. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and is the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques; for many years at Ruby Lane and now at Etsy. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her? Would you like to advertise on her website or this blog? Visit danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms, her media kit and more information.
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The Found in the Jewelry Box Blog is my attempt to teach others about the wonderful world of gems and jewelry, past and present. Please enjoy!