Outstanding Shell Cameo Brooch of an Angel
Material: Sardonyx Shell,  15k gold tested.
Size: 2 1/2" by 2 1/8" only cameo is 1 7/8" by 1 1/2", at the highest point the carving jumps out for about 5/8".
Date and Origin: Circa 1850 Italy. Cameo is scratch signed on the back but I can't read well the artist name and there is a date 1849.
Conditions:  Pristine.
This is a Highest Museum Quality  cameo depicting a praying Angel. I'm speechless looking at this cameo and at its carving, I have never seen something of similar. The three-dimensionality of this piece is more than amazing. Look please at his hands, each finger is perfect, the carver also engraved the shell through them and even the lines of the palms are carved. This cameo is an unique and rarest work of art. This really is once in a lifetime piece. Its surpassing beauty is breathtaking. The beauty and the serenity of his face are sensational, his facial features are lovely and so finely made. The closed eyes while he's praying are perfectly rendered and give to his face an expression of ecstasy. His dress is finely decorated and   his curly and long hair are softly lying on his shoulders. The skill of the carver can be truly seen in this artwork.  This piece is very large and the frame is really stunning, heavy gold embellished by gold scrolls finely chiseled at the four cardinal points. This brooch is also a pendant and the bale can be hidden on the back when worn as a brooch. Finding a rarest piece like this is hardest, and finding it is so mint conditions is today really a mission impossible. The pictures, even if wonderful,  really don't give to this cameo any justice, seen in person it takes your breath away. This really is one of the most wonderful cameo that I have ever handled. Not to be missed.   
A bit of History
An angel is a supernatural being or spirit found in various religions and mythologies. In Zoroastrianism and Abrahamic religions they are often depicted as benevolent celestial beings who act as intermediaries between Heaven and Earth, or as guardian spirits or a guiding influence. Other roles of angels include protecting and guiding human beings, and carrying out God's tasks. The term "angel" has also been expanded to various notions of spirits found in many other religious traditions. The theological study of angels is known as "angelology". In art, angels are often depicted with bird-like wings on their back, a halo, robes and various forms of glowing light. The most influential Christian angelic hierarchy was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th or 5th century in his book De Coelesti Hierarchia (On the Celestial Hierarchy). During the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications. According to medieval Christian theologians, the angels are organized into several orders, or "Angelic Choirs". Pseudo-Dionysius (On the Celestial Hierarchy) and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, to develop a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. Although both authors drew on the New Testament, the Biblical canon is relatively silent on the subject. Thus these hierarchies are highly speculative.
First Sphere
The first sphere angels serve as the heavenly counselors.
Seraphim literally translated burning ones, the word seraph is normally a synonym for serpents when used in the Hebrew Bible.  Seraphim are the highest angelic class and they serve as the caretakers of God's throne and continuously shout praises: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"  Seraphim are described as fiery six-winged beings; with two wings he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
Cherubim have four faces: one of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle (later adopted as the symbols of the four evangelists). They have four conjoined wings covered with eyes, a lion's body figure, and they have ox's feet. Cherubim guard the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden  and the throne of God. The cherubim are mentioned in Genesis, Exodus, Chronicles, Ezekiel, Kings and Revelation. Modern English usage has blurred the distinction between cherubim and puttiPutti are the winged human baby/toddler-like beings traditionally used in figurative art. St. Thomas Aquinas imagined Satan as a fallen Cherub.
Thrones or Ophanim
The Thrones or Elders, also known as the Erelim or Ophanim, are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians (New Testament). They are living symbols of God's justice and authority, and have as one of their symbols the throne. The Ophanim  are unusual looking even compared to the other celestial beings; they appear as a beryl-coloured wheel-within-a-wheel, their rims covered with hundreds of eyes. They are closely connected with the Cherubim: "When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures [Cherubim] was in the wheels." Ezekiel 10:17 NRSV.
Second Sphere
Angels of the Second Sphere work as heavenly governors.
Dominions or Lordships
The Dominions or Dominations; are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings "Lordships" in the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The Dominions, also known as the Hashmallim, regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans. They are also the angels who preside over nations. The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords.
Virtues or Strongholds
The Virtues or Strongholds lay beyond the ophanim (Thrones/Wheels). Their primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. The term appears to be linked to the attribute "might", from the Greek root dynamis, which is also translated as "Virtue". They are presented as the celestial Choir "Virtues", in the Summa Theologica. Traditional theological conceptions of the Virtues might appear to describe the same Order called the Thrones (in which case the Ophanim may not be the same thing as Thrones). From Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite's De Coelesti Hierarchia: The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue."
Powers or Authorities
The Powers, or Authorities, appear to collaborate, in power and authority, with the Principalities (Rulers). The Powers are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Some believe that no Power has ever fallen from grace, but another theory states that Satan was the Chief of the Powers before he fell. Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name.
Third Sphere
Angels who function as heavenly messengers and soldiers.
Principalities or Rulers
The Principalities also translated as Princedoms and Rulers, appear to collaborate, in power and authority, with the Powers (Authorities). The Principalities are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the Dominions and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth. Like beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science.
The word archangel comes from the Greek archangělǒs, meaning chief angel. It derives from the Greek archō, meaning to be first in rank or power; andangělǒs which means messenger or envoy. The word is only used twice in the New Testament:. Only Archangels Gabriel and Michael are mentioned by name in the New Testament. In most Christian traditions Gabriel is also considered an archangel, but there is no direct literal support for this assumption. It is also worth noting that the term 'archangel' appears only in the singular, never plural, and only in specific reference to Michael. Some Christian faiths take this to mean that Michael is, in fact, the only archangel. The name of the archangel Raphael appears only in the Book of Tobit (Tobias). Tobit is considered Deuterocanonical by Roman Catholics (both Eastern and Western Rites), Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Anglicans. The Book of Tobit is also read by Lutherans, but not by most other Protestant denominations including Reformed Christians and Baptists. Raphael said to Tobias that he was "one of the seven who stand before the Lord", and it is generally believed that Michael and Gabriel are two of the other six. A fourth Archangel is Uriel whose name literally means "Light of God." Uriel's name is the only one not mentioned in the Lutheran Bible, but plays, however, a prominent role in an apocryphon read by Anglican and Russian Orthodox Christians. In the book he unveils seven prophecies to the prophet Ezra, after whom the book is named. Another possible interpretation of the seven archangels is that these seven are the seven spirits of God that stand before the throne described in the Book of Enoch, and in the Book of Revelation. The Seven Archangels are said to be the guardian angels of nations and countries, and are concerned with the issues and events surrounding these, including politics, military matters, commerce and trade: e.g. Archangel Michael is traditionally seen as the protector of Israel and of the ecclesia, theologically equated as the Church, the forerunner of the spiritual New Israel.
The angels or malakhim, i.e. the plain angels, are the lowest order of the angels, and the most recognized. They are the ones most concerned with the affairs of living things. Within the category of the angels, there are many different kinds, with different functions. The angels are sent as messengers to mankind.