New home sought for brooch depicting controversial Cromwell

Adam’s At Home sale also lists an American tankard older than the United States

A piece of jewellery that begs many questions is one of the items of interest at an upcoming Adam’s At Home sale.

The piece in question is a brooch that comes from a private collector in the west of Ireland. It is an amethyst cameo brooch, carved with the depiction of Oliver Cromwell. Estimated at €700 to €1,000, it begs the question as to who would have worn such a piece, which depicts the person who well may have been the most controversial person in British history.

From a lowly landowner to a quasi-king, after helping to slay a true monarch, he is regarded as a 17th-century fascist who committed near genocide in Ireland by some, and a sort of champion of liberty by others for having laid the foundations of Britain today.

It is signed and dated J Beale 1780, and inscribed “Oliver Cromwell AD 1650″ to the reverse, and is mounted in white metal with diamonds and tsavorite garnets. These are green, which gives an almost Irish feel to the brooch.


The year 1650 marked the end of his Irish campaign — or slaughter to many — while also commencing his Scottish reign of terror when he smashed their army at the Battle of Dunbar on September 3rd.

Whatever the significance of 1650, by 1661 Cromwell was exhumed from his grave, given a posthumous execution, thrown in a pit and beheaded. His head was then displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685.

Cocktail time

The sale by Adam’s of St Stephen’s Green marks its first such event after the summer break, taking in a live online sale on Sunday, September 4th. On offer is a good range of silver, decorative arts, paintings and period furniture.

The sale also has some fine pieces of Georgian furniture, including a handsome secretaire chest (lot 223, €2,000-€3,000), which combines a traditional set of drawers with a hinged fall-front writing slope with pigeon holes.

For those in search of a cocktail cabinet or subtle home bar, a nice walnut Danish drinks cabinet (lot 465, €1,000-€2,000) may be of interest.

There are a number of interesting silver pieces, to include a Mexican silver sombrero (lot 99, €80-€120), and a grape scissors in the form of a stork (lot 32, €150-€200).

If the Danish drinks cabinet takes your fancy, there are a couple of related silver novelty items such as a wine jug formed from a bunch of grapes (lot 33, €250-€350), and a large Scottish quaich, which is Scotland’s cup of friendship used for centuries to offer a welcome drink at clan gatherings (lot 67, €400-€600).

An impressive piece of early Irish silver is a provincial two-handed loving cup (lot 31, €600-€800), similar to the quaich cup of friendship, it was traditionally used at weddings and banquets.

Also featured are two Georgian brandy warmers (lot 30, €300-€500 and lot 85, €500-€700), as well as some claret jugs and ewers.

Perhaps most interesting in the drinkware selection is a rare 18th-century American tankard (lot 55, €3,000-€5,000). Bearing the maker’s mark of John Burt of Boston, the piece is believed to date from about 1730 — almost half a century before the formation of the United States.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables