Whereas the relief in intaglios is cut into the stone by the drill, in the cameo process the drill cuts away the stone to raise the composition in relief.Ancient cameos are often hard to date accurately owing to the reuse of many compositions, particularly Hellenistic ones.Ancient cameos themselves have held up better than their settings, which have frequently been melted down.
Softer stones such as chalcedony and harder ones such as jasper can all be carved in relief, but inevitably evoke less fascination than cameos carved from polychromatic hardstones.
In the best hands, these hardstones seem almost to combine the effects of painting and sculpture and have always been coveted both as fanciful curiosities and as miraculous unions of art and nature.
Gradually, depending on the complexity of the stone itself, more bands of color were engaged in the design, sometimes even prompting the inclusion of hints of landscape.
Cameo makers have historically used a wide range of stones.
The glyptic arts have known various ups and downs, reaching a veritable apex during the mid-nineteenth century.