Cameos for the most part are shell. They make cameos from about 26 different types of shell but for the most part they are shell that comes from the sea. The settings may be gold, silver, brass, or pinchbeck but the cleaning is almost the same.
There are quite a few fancy and expensive ways to clean your shell cameo jewelrysuch as ionic cleaners, steam cleaners, and many more. But whenever you enter a priceless old cameo into the modern world of cleaners, you take a chance of damaging your cherished piece of jewelry. If you have to choose one, I would go with the ionic cleaner rather than the others just because you will rarely have any damage with that particular cleaner. Be sure to get the one with the electrical cord because the battery powered ones just dont have as much umph.
But be prepared. They're not cheap! I clean my cameos (all of them) simple, easy and very inexpensively. I use an age old secret formula!! Its been a trade secret in the jewelry industry for years and I am going to let you in on it right now!_______TOOTHPASTE! Yep, good old fashioned white tooth paste will clean the white face of a shell cameo in no time at all. And you can use it on agate cameos, shell cameos, wedgwood cameos, turquoise cameos, glass cameos and coral cameos.
Here is a simple method for cleaning that old cameo:
#1. Start with the metal cameo frame and to clean it no matter if your cameo is silver, gold or brass ,use some red jewelers rouge. Its only about $4 and it will last you about 5 years. Rub the red jewelers rouge vigorously on a cloth. (old cotton underwear works great) and then rub the cameo frame lightly with the cloth for a good shine. After that you can start the process below.
NOTE: It is highly recommended that you do this over a carpeted floor or bed or somewhere. If you drop it or it slips from your hand, your cameo will not break on the floor below.
#2. Get some good old fashion toothpaste, almost any kind will do. The cheaper the better and put it on a soft tooth brush. Now don't forget, soft bristols not hard bristols, thats important. You don't want a tooth brush that is so hard it scratches the shell.
#3. Place your cameo under running water from your faucet, make it medium warm. Then take it out and scrub the face of it with your soft tooth brush till the face is nice and clean and the setting cleans up a bit too. Don't overdue it a little bit of dirt gives it an aged look!
#4. Unless the back is really dirty I would not go there you might break a pin or bail and then you are in trouble. Leave it be.
#5. Rinse it with medium warm water and pat dry and you got a clean cameo again!
Preston Reuther is a Master Wire Sculptor that has been collecting, buying and selling cameos for close to 20 years and he has written several e-books. produced over 34 jewelry making dvds. written over 300 newsletters and over 1000 tips all related to jewelry both old and new. Visit Preston's antique cameo collection at www.cameojewelry.com or Contact Us