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Published by Robert Hale Limited, Clerkenwell House, Clerkenwell Green, London EClR OHT. (275pp hb, 300 illus, 150 in colour). ISBN 0-7090-6355-5. £18.99.

CAMEOS – emperors have commissioned them, kings have acquired them and at least since the 4th century BC collectors have cherished them; and, of course faked them.

In this fascinating and comprehensive book – the only one of its kind – there is a chapter on detecting cameo fakes and forgeries, which includes the splendid tale of an 18th century villain, Baron Philipp von Stosch. Von Stosch had an insatiable desire for engraved gems and cameos and owned a cabinet filled with over 3000 carved gems, some genuine antiques and many forgeries. The crafty baron would go to any lengths to acquire pieces for his collection and the story goes that while visiting the Bibliothèque Royale in Paris he was shown a marvellous Renaissance cameo, used by Michelangelo as a signet, later given to King Louis XIV, who put it into the Bibliothèque for safekeeping. When the curator was showing the wily baron the royal carved gems he suddenly noticed the stone was missing. The curator then sent for a strong emetic and forced the German to swallow it. The irritant worked instantly and the baron threw up the gem into a basin. History makes no mention of what happened next.

Another little gem in this excellent book is a note of the highly creative method of ageing stones by using the stone-in-chicken ploy. This scheme calls for stuffing the newly carved or engraved stone down the gullet of a turkey or chicken so that the abrasive action of the gizzard imparts a dully and chalky “antique” look to the stone. Where does it comes out?

Cameos Old and New caters to a rising demand for information about collecting, appraising and selling these miniature collectables, and jewellery historian Anna Miller has uncovered little publicised cameo collections, she has researched firsthand information on new machine-carving techniques and investigated cameo design and style from the 18th century to the present day. The thorough text includes the myths and legends behind the jewels, circa dating, cameo production, distinguishing old and new cameos, cameo imitators, cameos as art, buying and selling at auction, care and conservation and market prices. Great and historic collections have 17 pages to themselves and there is a very full appendix including a chronology of engraved stones and cameos in Europe.

The full history and romance of the glyptic arts is thoroughly explored and this well-researched book will surely fill a gap in jewellery history.