Portraying a warrior with sphinx-topped helmet, the 2¼in (5.5cm) tall piece was also carved to the reverse and signed Wilhelm Schmidt (1845-1938).
The German-born, Paris-trained craftsman joined his brother’s jewellery business in Hatton Garden and his gemstone carvings revived the interest in cameos which had faded since Georgian times.
Opal carvings, while rare, were not unknown but Schmidt’s new technique, which involved building thin layers of the gem around a stone core, brought him wealthy clients and he became London’s foremost cameo carver.
Signed works are particularly rare and this example led Dore & Rees’ (25% buyer’s premium) December 6 auction in Frome at a mid-estimate £6000.
It was the second specialist sale in the ‘strategic partnership’ of Lee Young of Dore & Rees and Harrogate jewellery dealer Susan Rumfitt.
While lacking a superstar such as the £62,000 archaeological revival micromosaic brooch by Castellani sold in July (ATG No 2551), it included five lots of late 19th century peridot and diamond set brooches which totalled £20,850 against a top collective estimate of £11,000.