Badge of Office

October 19, 2015

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian’s Badge of Office is a thick, irregularly shaped medallion made of 18-carat gold that hangs from a cherry-red ribbon. Cast in high relief and set within a deeply recessed square on the front is the owl of Athena, a symbol of wisdom, and an olive branch, a symbol of peace and goodwill. The owl has forward-gazing eyes that are set with a pair of large, yellow sapphires. To the side of the owl is engraved the Smithsonian Institution’s mandate as defined in James Smithson’s will: “For the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge Among Men.” The back is engraved with the sunburst seal of the Smithsonian and “James Smithson, 1765—Bicentennial 1965.” (Image courtesy Smithsonian Institution)

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