Dear CameoArtist, Way back when I first started cutting stones I
learned from this old hippy guy who told me that the original cameos
were done from black and white striped onyx. The stone was shaped
and then the woman's head was carved as a bas-relief leaving the
black part of the stone as a background. I can't verify this but I
have seen some very old cameos and they did indeed look like they had
been carved from a single two color stone. I think onyx (a form of
cryptocrystalline quartz) might be a little harder to cut but much
more forgiving than seashell, and less hazardous to your health.
There are deposits of this type of onyx out here in Arizona, and you
can sometimes find the rough sold in massive form at the Quartzite
gem show in late January just before the big Tucson show.
Another thought is using opal as your cameo material.
As a disabled person I think your training is a great thing. After
I became disabled and could no longer walk or sit up all day
programming computers I had something to fall back on that gives me
something to do and maybe I might even make a little money at it one
of these days. God Bless Rick Carew AZopals @r_carew