A striking piece of history sold for £754 at a Fellows auction

Fellows Auctioneers in Birmingham sold dress studs with granite chipped from Cleopatra’s Needle in London.

A Chip of Cleopatra's Needles

February 16, 2023: A spectacular pair of dress studs, holding a part of the historic, magnificent Cleopatra’s Needle in London, was recently auctioned at Fellows for – might we add – only £754! 

The London needle is the separated pair of granite ancient Egyptian obelisk presented to Britain by the Sultan of Egypt and Sudan, Muhammad Ali Pasha, in 1819, which now stands on the Thames Embankment in London. 

A Chip of Cleopatra's Needles

This pair of dress studs were engraved to the reverse with the words ‘A Chip of Cleopatra’s Needle’ reminding us of its rich history. The exquisitely made studs unite the ancient and modern history, being part of the Victorian trend for collecting items of historical and cultural value. 

Created and erected in the ancient city of Heliopolis, dating back to around 1450 BC, the obelisks were moved from Heliopolis to Alexandria in 12 BC, where the Romans erected them in the Caesareum, a temple built earlier by Cleopatra, to honour either Julius Caesar or Mark Antony. Both needles have since been known as ‘Cleopatra’s Needles’.

Cleopatra's Needle London

Cleopatra's Needle on Thames Bank, London.

A hard task, the obelisk was finally bought to England in September 1878, nearly 60 years after it was gifted and 3300 years after its first raising. The saga was followed closely by the British press and public. Many souvenirs were created during this time, including this pair of dress studs. The second needle stands in Central Park in New York City. 

As archeologists bemoan the deterioration and weathering of the needles, these dress studs might become higher in value, as a small, but perfectly preserved relic of ancient history.

- By Pritha Debroy

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