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ORIGINAL CARNELIAN FLY AMULET (1300 BC) · Often linked to the sun, translucent carnelian was a common gemstone in Dynastic Egypt. This contemporary medal of valour is a versatile accessory for a wide variety of occasions.

  • 18k palladium white gold

  • Ceylon sapphires. Total weight 0.52 carats

  • Length 7.2cm/2.83”

Egyptian fly amulet


Fly amulets appeared as early as the pre-dynastic era. From the beginning the fly was represented in hieroglyphs as the sign for “determinator”, and has been used on several ritual artefacts throughout the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The fly started to gain significance as beads and amulets during the Middle Kingdom, it was not until the New Kingdom that the fly became the first award for military valour (Williams 1924: 61).

There is still scholarly debate about the military context of the Golden Fly of Valour, as several non-military men and women were depicted wearing it, as well as the discovery of fly pendants in their tombs.

This particular piece is made of carnelian. Small fly amulets have been found in Egypt made from gold, silver, bone, lapis lazuli, faience, carnelian, and amethyst.

Christie's 2012 (GBP 14,375)
Christie's 2012 (GBP 14,375)
The Met museum, accession number: 26.7.1374
The Met museum, accession number: 26.7.1374
Petrie museum, UC31426
Petrie museum, UC31426
  • Flinders Petrie, Amulets

  • R. K. Liu, The symbolic importance of insects in jewelry

  • D. Rosalie, The ancient Egyptians: beliefs and practices

  • A. Marshall, Fly & lion : military awards in ancient Egypt

  • E. Bishop, Golden flies: Egypt’s pharaonic past in multiple mirrors

Acquired at an antiquities dealer in London, legally exported under the British and European legislation for export of cultural goods. Authenticity has been certified by C.M., member of the British Treasure Valuation Committee and Deputy Chairman of ADA (Antiquities Dealers Association).

This specific amulet came from an old English collection, acquired in the 1920s-40s and then given by descent through the Foxwell family.


Distinction of valour has historically been linked to great deeds and great stages: Congressional Medals of Honour pinned by POTUS, ancient Roman triumphs, and of course we all remember Bob Dylan’s already legendary acceptance speech at the Nobel awards ceremony. History has produced a wide variety of decorations: medals, laurels, ribbons and even tattoos. The first one though, the very first one ever, was a golden fly awarded by an Egyptian pharaoh.

Roman laurel wreath, symbol of victory and honour.
Credit Roger Viollet

The Egyptian fly hieroglyph was the sign for the word “determinator”. Flies started appearing on bead amulets as early as the Old and Middle Kingdoms. During the New Kingdom golden flies became the earliest decorations for military valour, symbol for persistence in the face of opposition. Findings of golden flies on women extended this to special occasions like jubilees.

Today, extraordinary valour has extended into ordinary contexts, like the valour of parents working double shifts to pay for their children’s education. Heroism has shifted from distant battlefields to nearby families, schools or neighbourhoods.

Most of our Oktaaf jewelry is conceived from an angle of occasion: new birth, old love,… We badly wanted to reinterpret the concept of the medal of distinction, as a recognition of day-to-day valour. A contemporary pin was the obvious choice, the selection of the symbolic antiquity proved to be a labyrinth. We looked at medals, ribbons and even medieval chivalry orders. Eventually, and by pure accident, we stumbled on the unexpected Egyptian fly.

Our pin of distinction is a testament to millions of acts of valour by millions of anonymous heroes. It is the original decoration, it is an exceptional piece, and we hope it finds its way to an extraordinary person.