Alexander as Hercules

Antique brooch with shell cameo in gold & enamel, Italy circa 1850

This brooch from the middle years of the 19th century presents a beautifully cut shell cameo in a setting of gold. It depicts one of the most famous generals of classical antiquity, Alexander the Great: Alexander conquered many lands in his short reign from 336 to 323 BC and created the largest empire in the ancient world. On his campaigns from Macedonia, he subjugated the Persian Empire and even penetrated into what is now India. The fine cameo of bicoloured shell shows the profile of the youthful Alexander with the fur of the Nemean lion. The king is thus depicted as the mythical hero Heracles. Alexander was also depicted in this form on the silver drachms minted during his reign, as a sign of his almost supernatural strength and power. The Italian gem engraver of the 19th century succeeded in capturing the youthful face of the commander in great detail. The oval cameo is set in an elaborate frame of 14-carat gold. Fine leaf ornaments, black-enamelled stars and a bow at the lower edge of the broad gold frame ornamentally enrich the piece of jewellery. The brooch, dating from around 1850, was probably once highly sought after as a sign of humanistic education, and so it may still be today. It is beautifully preserved and found its way to us here in Berlin as part of an important collection of antique cameos.

For centuries, possessing antique cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections, from the Green Vault in Dresden to the treasury of Rudolf II to large private collections such as that of Baron von Stosch in later times. The 18th and 19th centuries produced numerous large imprint collections of antique sealstones and gems, which were able to represent the antique imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety. These ancient gemstones also stimulated the lapidaries of those years to engrave their own interpretation of classical antiquity in stone.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.