Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Taking care of old cameos

How should old cameos be taken care of? One of my students has asked
me this about her grandmother’s and I did not have an answer. It is
shell and signed on the back. She found sites on the internet that
advised her to oil them with baby oil or mineral oil. I told her I
did not think this would be good for them and that I would check
with orchid members.


As I carve them and have restored them; here is what I have found
helpful. Clean them with water and if they look extremely dirty use
a magnifier you will say OMG lol at the dirt that appears. Pearl
Cleaning solution and a little light rubbing with q-tips. As far as
the shell drying out it has already dried as far as it will in
vintage and antique and if it has not cracked as yet it is unlikely
to without being dropped or damaged when reset. Mineral oil attracts
dirt and provides a temporary luster. If you wish to restore shine
then use the smooth nail buffer the little block ones that have 4
sides use the smoothest one and lightly buff the cameo. It is how I
polish my carved ones when done. All caveats as per usual if you
fell uncertain than naturally abide by the basic rule of less is
more. In antiquities do the least possible damage and start very
slowly. Meaning do nothing, or use water and Q-tips.

Teri Davis

Awkward one, Cameo shell is mostly calcium carbonate but there are
thin layers of organic material secreted by the snail to bind the
crystalline layers together. Oiling wont harm (or help) the calcite
mineral but could possibly affect the organic bits. Best leave alone,
they will last a couple of hundred years+ and anything good enough to
be signed would be compromised by incorrect conservation.

Nick royall