Pearls and cameos make a great combination, and after the little photo essay below let's see people's favorite examples.
I recently had the good fortune to discover an important historical cameo, and would love to share it,
under the pretense of a little bit of info about French Empire Cameos (and pearls, of course).
Napoleon Bonaparte used cameo portraits of himself, gifted to supporters, to promote his imperial image.
Napoleon also encouraged his wife Empress Josephine to patronize contemporary gem engravers,
and she led the fashion of the day for wearing cameos in jewelry.
In the 1807 painting below by Andrea Appiani, Josephine is depicted as the Queen of Italy,
wearing a pearl and ruby tiara, centered with a cameo of Napoleon wreathed in laurel.
Her empire line belt, detailed below, features another cameo of Napoleon as a young man, check out those pearls!
(pictures from the blog "The Ornamented Being" http://ornamentedbeing.tumblr.com/post/29698709880
and historical background from the book "Portrait Jewels" by Diana Scarisbrick)
During the Second French Empire (1852 - 1870), Bonaparte's nephew,
Napoleon III emulated his uncle by commissioning cameo portraits of himself and his family.
His supporters among the Second Empire nobility affirmed their Bonaparte credentials by wearing cameos of Napoleon I,
often newly mounted in contemporary designs.
One of the leading Second Empire cameo sculptors was Paul-Victor LEBAS (active in Paris 1851-1876).
He exhibited at the Paris Salons and worked with the jewellers Caillot & Peck, specialists in cameo settings.
Around 1851 Lebas carved the famous cameo of the young Queen Victoria for Felix Dafrique
(now in the Victoria and Albert Museum). The setting combines the red roses of Lancaster,
and the white roses of York, picked out in pearls on the left hand side.
Lebas was patronized by Napoleon III. He produced one of the first cameos of Empress Eugenie in 1855,
and carved the cameo of their son the Prince Imperial in 1865 (now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York).
You can imagine how I felt when I discovered the following cameo pendant/brooch,
which had passed through a local auction house without anyone realizing it was signed by Lebas
(shown here suspended on some nice plump 8.5mm Akoyas).
Things got even better when I was able to work out who the subject was,
Tsarevich Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov, the future Tsar Alexander III of Russia.
The cameo shows him aged about 19, when there was no expectation he would come to the throne,
and just before an extraordinary series of events.
The following year his older brother Nicholas died unexpectedly,
and on his deathbed wished that Alexander would wed his fianc? Princess Dagmar of Denmark.
Dagmar accepted Alexander's proposal and they married 9 November 1866.
Dagmar converted to Orthodox Christianity and took the name Maria Feodorovna.
Alexander and Maria had a happy marriage with several children,
including their eldest son Nicholas, who was to become the ill fated last Tsar.
Following the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, their coronation occurred in 1883
and they became Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.
Here's a close-up of the cameo, and below a link to some more info,
including details on how the subject was identified as Tsarevich Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov.