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The mysterious alloy of antiquity: Corinthium Aes – more valuable than silver, almost as expensive as gold


umerous objects, especially figures of gods and cult devices were elaborately made of the black, mysterious copper - Corinthium Aes, the cult metal of the ancient Egypt - almost as expensive as gold - currently to be admired in a small special exhibition in the New Museum...

Lower part of a counterweight (menite), c. 880 B.C., © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection / Sandra Steiß
Standing figure of Meh-Chonsu, 1070 - 946 B.C., © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection / Sandra Steiß
Statuette of the jackal-headed god Anubis, 1070 - 525 B.C., © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung / Sandra Steiß

The current special exhibition in the Neues Museum is dedicated to the (so far) mysterious, special metal alloy “Corinthium Aes”. What makes it unique is the black, matte shimmer that the metal exhibits. The secret recipe for this metal has been a mystery since ancient times. The precious mixture is said to have been created when, according to legend, the city of Corinth was destroyed and the mysterious components of this metal fused together.

Photo: ©kischreport

However, due to scientific studies, the components and mixing ratios of the alloy have now been deciphered: Copper, gold and silver. There were times when the black copper was more valuable than silver and almost equal to gold. What is really amazing about this metal is the phenomenon that the resulting black hue is created especially when the metal comes into contact with the skin or skin sweat. Unlike other alloys, it is only then that this unique shimmering violet, matte black hue is created. If the metal is damaged or scratched, the color patina is renewed by simply touching it – a unique repair process not found in any other metal alloy: worn or scuffed “color applications” are created again only by touching the metal in the damaged areas.

Recent work with Corinthium Aes, details with gold inlay; top: small bird, right: statuette of a horse, hollow worked with lid ("Trojan horse") ©kischreport

The knowledge of how it was made was almost completely lost over the years, until goldsmith Matthias Lehr and archaeologist Alessandra Giumlia-Mair succeeded in reconstructing the manufacturing process.The exhibition room with the special exhibits shows both ancient Egyptian pieces and modern design of the 21st century, which was created thanks to the rediscovered “recipe”.

Lotus bowl, © Private collection, Photo: Matthias Lehr


Neues Museum

Bodestraße 1-3, 10178 Berlin


only until August 28, 2023

Opening hours

Tue – Sun 10-18 h

Thu 10-20 h


12 Euro, reduced 6 Euro



Cover Photo: Crocodile, © Private collection, Photo: Matthias Lehr