Diadem with Herakles knot

Hellenistic Period
200–150 B.C.


Overall: 47.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 cm, 55 gm (18 11/16 x 2 3/16 x 1/4 in., 0.12 lb.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Gold and garnet

On View

Anne and Blake Ireland Gallery (Gallery 210A)


Jewelry, The Ancient World



A diadem (or headband) worn over a high female coiffure. The center is composed of a Herakles knot, whose strands are garlands of pointed leavees; a rosette, once inlaid with a stone, marks the center of the knot. The Herakles knot is hinged to sofa-capital-shaped plates, each set with a cabochon garnet in a toothed mounting and surrounded with repeating “plaited” borders of countertwisted wire. A double band of toothed ornament runs across the lower parts of the capitals. Three bunches, each originally of three garnet beads held above and below by rosette-cups and attached to chains, hang down, one from the Herakles knot and one from a lower corner of each capital. The straps, two at each side, are made by the interlocking loop-in-loop technique with links of hairlike fineness; each ends in a tongue-shaped finial with filigree ornament and a hook or eye for fastening.

The Herakles knot is bordered with the teeth used to hold stone or glass inlays, but the strands are made up of pointed gold leaves. The volutes, of loosely coiled wire, are reduced to vestigial form. By contrast, the decoration of the capitals is overt and repetitious, with no attempt at transition between the round garnet cabochons and the angular surrounding elements. Most comparable in its simplification, though more logically organized and entirely different in construction, is an example in Cairo, for which a mid-third-century date has been suggested.

(Description by A. Herrmann in “The Search for Alexander” 1980, cat. no. 79.)


By 1970: with Sotheby & Co., 34 & 35 New Bond Street, London, W. 1, England (Sotheby auction, July 13, lot 150); purchased at the Sotheby auction by Münzen und Medaillen A.G., Malzgasse 25, Basel, Switzerland; May 12, 1971: purchased by MFA from Münzen und Medaillen, A.G.

Credit Line

Edward J. and Mary S. Holmes Fund