Greetings from Milan

Antique souvenir brooch with view of Milan Cathedral, around 1870

A pretty shell from the beach, a refreshing limoncello from Sorrento or a particularly fine olive oil from Tuscany are usually part of today's luggage when returning home - but these souvenirs of earlier generations have naturally not been particularly well preserved. It is rather the souvenirs in decorative form of our ancestors, which can still delight us today. The brooch presented here was once such a souvenir, a memory of a journey through Italy. For we see, cut into the shell, a view of Milan Cathedral before us. The impressive façade with its five axes stands before us like a mountain of stone, in perfect symmetry and elegant proportions. To the right and left, the smaller buildings only show the size of this structure, giving the image a strong central perspective, much like a Renaissance painting. The cathedral, begun in the 14th century, like so many of the great churches of the Middle Ages, was left unfinished at some point. It was not until the 19th century that its façade was completed: Much as in the case of Cologne Cathedral, at the highest suggestion. However, it was not the King of Prussia who began further construction here, but Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1805 he had himself crowned King of Italy in Milan and was very annoyed about the unfinished church, whose unfinished building did not really want to provide a pompous backdrop for him. Therefore, he had the cathedral completed in a few years - just as we see it today. The shell cameo is set in gilded tombac and has thus become a brooch. It was made in the second half of the 19th century. We discovered it here in Berlin.

For centuries, possessing antique cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections of decorative arts and cabinets of curiosities, from the Green Vault in Dresden and 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 seal stones and gems, which were able to represent the ancient imagery of antique glyptic almost in its entirety, as they were also an expression of a humanistic education. Often figures of the Olympian heaven of gods or mythological scenes were the subject of the representations. Of particular importance for the transmission of stone and shell carvings north of the Alps have always been travellers to Italy, who brought home impressions and carved stones as well as engraved shells from their educational journeys in order to enjoy the stories that the shells could tell. The art of gem-cutting has survived to this day in Italy, especially in the Bay of Naples, where it has been passed down from generation to generation. Today, the Scuola dei Cammei in Torre del Greco is the only large-scale training centre for gem-cutters in Italy in the world, although unfortunately the mythological theme has been lost.

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.