Bling & Things: Cameos, Intaglios, Kafin and other Jewelry Tips

Costume Jewelry Collectors
an original publication by RCJ and Dorothea Stringfield

Bling & Things:
Cameos; Intaglios; Kafin; Kenneth J. Lane; Costume Jewelry Collectors International
by Susan Klein Bagdade    ©2010


The differences that denote cameos from intaglios? A cameo is always raised and carved. A cameo can be made of shell, bone, precious stones, even lava rock, but the carving on a cameo is always above the surface. An intaglio is the opposite, as they are always carved below the surface. Intaglios are often transparent since they are under-carved. Therefore, intaglios can often found in glass, gems and even plastics. It can be said that cameos date from pre-historic times as petroglyphs on cave walls. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Assyrians and Egyptians made some of the earliest jewelry cameos. During the Renaissance, cameo artistry became very fashionable and flourished. The cameo was a favored piece of jewelry among the Victorians and remains a classic piece of jewelry today. Intaglios also date from ancient times and were first used as a stamp to seal letters or as a marker for property. Intaglios are often seen in such jewelry items as watch fobs and signet rings. In the Deco era, playful children’s buttons and jewelry frequently feature intaglio designs carved into acrylic..

The classic woman’s profile cameo. This one, featuring a sterling frame, dates from the late teens and belonged to my great-grandmother.

Back of Cameo
Although it’s in rough condition, it’s still much loved.


Child’s novelty bracelet with intaglio “Scottie” dogs, ca. 1925-30. The contemporary earrings were fashioned from near-matching intaglio buttons that date from the same era.

Read more about cameos and intaglios:

“Cameos: Classical to Costume” by Monica Lynn Clements and Patricia Rosser Clements, Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA, 2008.

“Cameos: Old & New, 4th Edition” by Anna M. Miller and Diana Jarrett, Gemstone Press, Woodstock Vermont, 2008.

“Classical Gems: Ancient and Modern Intaglios and Cameos in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,” by Martin Henig, Diana Scarisbrick and Mary Whiting, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 1995.

“Intaglios and Rings: Greek, Etruscan and Eastern”, by John Boardman, Thames and Hudson, Ltd., London, U.K, 1975.


Many incorrectly identify the bracelets with these unique links as Juliana, but they are not. Others have wondered if they are actually Selro, but I was never convinced. Finally, I acquired a piece with a little gold metal tag that solved one part of the puzzle. These unique bracelets were produced by “Kafin, New York”. The company itself, Kafin, New York, still remains a mystery, but these distinctive bracelets finally have a maker’s name. What we do know about Kafin is that they did indeed operate out of New York City in the 1950s and 1960s and that their costume jewelry was sold in better department stores. Perhaps one day more information will be available on the company that manufactured this exquisite and unique jewelry.


Bracelet featuring large green cabochons with little, gold “Kafin” tag near the clasp. The other similar pieces pictured do not have this tag; perhaps it fell off or was removed on the others.


Kafin Distinctive Links


Kafin Signature


Three Kafin Bracelets


KJL Fake


I’ve noticed a huge range in prices for Kenneth Jay Lane jewelry. What are their most sought after pieces? What is my piece worth? It has no markings on it, but I was told it was a KJL from the 1980s. From: R.D.R. Nashville, Tennessee


KJL Fake Reverse


I’m sorry to tell you this, but I believe your piece is not authentic. It seems to be a “knock-off” of a Kenneth Jay Lane bracelet. Kenneth Jay Lane did produce frog bracelets similar to this one, but this one doesn’t look sophisticated enough to be a KJL. It would also have been signed. His pieces have different signatures based on the era they were produced and who it was produced for (i.e. “KJL for Avon”). Kenneth Jay Lane was born in Detroit, MI in 1930. He started out as a shoe designer for Delman and Christan Dior. In the early 1960s, his first jewelry collection for Saks Fifth Avenue was sold-out in one day. He is known as the costume jeweler to the stars, as he has created unique designs for Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, among others. Barbara Bush wore his three-strand faux-pearl necklace to her husband’s inaugural ball. Today, Kenneth Jay Lane jewelry can be found in numerous venues, including department stores, boutiques, QVC and even his own shop in the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Newer pieces can be purchased from about $20 into the hundreds of dollars. Obviously, earlier and more elaborate pieces bring the most money. A KJL pin belonging to Jackie Onassis brought thousands of dollars at auction. Vintage KJL pieces generally run from about $10 to into the high hundreds. Read more about Kenneth Jay Lane in his memoir “Faking It” by Harrice Simons Miller, Harry N. Abrams publisher, 1996. Had your piece been a real enameled Kenneth Jay Lane frog bracelet, its value would be estimated at about $50-75. Your piece’s value, as a quaint, but unsigned frog bracelet would be valued at $20-25.


There is a new costume jewelry collector’s group, which has stepped-up to replace the VFCJ (Vintage Fashion & Costume Jewelry) Group, which recently disbanded. The new group is called Costume Jewelry Collectors International or CJCI, which was recently started by Pamela Wiggins and Melinda Laired Lewis. Wiggins’ and Lewis’ mission statement is that “CJCI is an International organization of collectors and stylists dedicated to the studies of fashion and costume jewelry”. The club will provide members with a quarterly magazine and access to the club’s social networking site for a $25 yearly subscription fee. For further information or to join CJCI, contact them at:

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