Cameos are an antique jewelry design that typically depicts a woman’s face or profile. Cameos are made into brooches, pendants, rings and earrings. As cameos are frequently made with fragile materials (such as mother-of-pearl and shell), special attention is required to keep them looking clean and beautiful.


Identify the cameo’s unique materials. Cameos themselves are often carved from shells and adorned with jewels, gold, mother-of-pearl, agate or silver. This step is important because you will need to clean the cameo with products designed for its special composition. Consult a professional jeweler if you need help identifying what makes up your cameo.

Dust cameo jewelry on a regular basis. Use a dry, soft-bristled brush to wipe away dust that may gather in the cameo’s carved grooves. Always dust your cameo before you clean it.

Clean cameos properly. Exert special care with cameos made from fine materials. A gentle cleaning solution often works well on cameos. Create a cleansing solvent of warm water and a little bit of mild soap (like Ivory). Dip a soft-bristled brush into the cleaning solution and gently wipe down the cameo. However, simply use warm water (not soap) when cleaning fragile cameos (such as those made of shell or pearl). Dry wet cameos with a soft cotton rag.

Wear cameos with care. Cameo jewelry can make a bold or subtle statement to any fashion ensemble. However, avoid spritzing perfume, hair care products or cleaning sprays near the cameo design, as these chemicals can damage it. If it’s an especially hot day and you plan on spending time outdoors, leave a shell cameo at home. Excessive temperatures can dry out a shell cameo, increasing the chances for chipping and cracking.

Carefully store and protect cameos. Cameos are easily scratched, chipped and cracked. Tuck cameos safely away inside a soft, cloth pouch and store inside a lined jewelry box.

Tips

  • Some cameo jewelry designers find toothpaste a useful and successful cleaning agent on shell cameos.
    Paintbrushes and toothbrushes make excellent dusters for cameos.
    Many jewelers offer professional cameo cleaning services.