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Archive for the tag “jewellery”

A late mediaeval “decade ring”

Here is a guest post on the Colchester and Ipswich Museums website, by Jill Holmen, Collections Manager of Epping Forest Museum. It depicts a “decade” ring, used for a form of devotion in ten stages and dates from 25 years either side of 1500, recently borrowed by Colchester Castle Museum and was on display there until mid-February.

The ten stages of the ring are known as “bezels”, five of which are described in the article. The wearer was clearly of high status and notably religious whilst the ring was discovered in 2004.

‘I saw something shining…’ Metal Detecting Finds..

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The Staffordshire Hoard.  One of the biggest hoard of Anglo Saxon artefacts every discovered.  See more of this hoard below..

A story has broken of four ‘metal detectorists’ who have been convicted of stealing a hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins and jewellery worth 3 million pounds, most of which is, tragically, still missing.  You can tell from the pictures of the stuff that has been recovered the quality of the still missing items, which now may never be recovered,  after probably being sold on the black market.

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A gold ring dating back to the reign of King Alfred the Great

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A crystal rock pendant chased in gold  dating back to the 5th century

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Gold arm bangle with a dragon or serpents head design dating from the 9th century..

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A gold coin from the reign of King Alfred the Great..

Just before this story broke I was intending to write a story about metal detectorists that have made some wonderful discoveries and have done the right thing handing them over,  also being paid quite handsome sums.  I list some of these discoveries below.    Although I have had to mention the fact that a small handful of people wielding metal detectors have behaved despicably, for which they will now being paying the price –  long prison sentences –  the majority of finds are declared most of which would have lain undiscovered if not for metal detectorists.  So I say as long as they behave honourable and do not disturb places of historical importance then long may they continue to find beautiful items of great historical interest.

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Medieval garnet and turquoise ring circa 1250-1450.  Found at Barnham Broom, Norfolk.

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The Escrick Ring.  900-1100 AD -Viking.  Only the second time a use of a sapphire has been recorded in England (1)  Found in 2009 and  now in the Yorkshire Museum.

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The famous Middleham Jewel.  Gold with a sapphire.  Dated between 1475 and 1499.  Discovered in 1985 near Middleham Castle.  Now at the York Museum.  

 

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A gold 15th century hat pin found inches below the surface of a newly ploughed Lincolnshire field.  

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Seventeen Medieval coins.  A Welsh find.

image.pngSword Pommel.  Bedale Hoard.  Late 9th to 10 Century.  One of 48 items.  Now in the Yorkshire Museum.

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Gold Brooch – two hands clasped together, note the decorative sleeves.  Only the size of a pound coin.  Found in a field in Cheshire.  Circa 1350.  Thought to be a betrothal gift.  

image.pngA fitting from hilt of a Seax (a large single bladed knife) – one of the items from the Staffordshire Hoard  discovered in 2009 in a field near Lichfield and the largest collection of Anglo Saxon Gold and silver to be ever discovered.image.png

A helmet from the Staffordshire Hoard and fit for a King..image.png

The helmet has been reconstructed as it was  badly damaged before it was buried.

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A mystery object from the Hoard that has left archaeologists  baffled.    Suggestions have been the lid of a container, an extension of a helmet, a saddle fitting?

And so its clear that metal detectorists are a valuable asset in recovering lost treasures frequently  alerting archaelogists to a site and further finds that would have remained undiscovered.  How many more finds are out there awaiting the intrepid metal detector to discover them?  Bring it on!

 

  1. Online article.  University of York.  The first earliest example of a sapphire being used in jewellery in England was 5th century Roman.

 

Medieval jewels have been found, but my emerald has gone forever….

This illustration is from the Yorkshire Post and has been chosen to illustrate the sort of wonderful finds that have been made by detectorists.

There has been a positive rash of such discoveries, and each time I am reminded again of how dreadful it must have been, way back when, to lose something as valuable as, say, a ring. People had fewer possessions then, and a jewelled ring would have been a dreadful loss.

There are other examples of lost jewellery, such as this article

plus, of course, the matchless Middleham Jewel!

Of course, not all detectorists are well-intentioned. Those they call nighthawks are in it for more nefarious reasons.

Illustration from the Independent

I cannot claim to have lost anything as valuable as the Middleham Jewel, but I did lose the emerald from my engagement ring. That awful moment when I glanced at my hand and saw the hole/space/gap, will live with me forever. It was like hearing the hollow clang of a huge invisible bell. My beautiful emerald had gone forever, and I was gutted.

Not my ring, merely an illustration from Gemselect.

Finding another emerald of the same colour and clarity proved impossible, so the ring now boasts a lovely ruby instead, but I still wonder what happened to the emerald.

Might someone find it in years to come? Or has it gone forever? I’d been into Gloucester that day, so it could had been lost then. A girl going shopping goes everywhere! One thing’s certain, unless they invent an emerald-detector, it won’t be located by some hopeful detectorist in a future century.

 

Did Richard III wear the Black Prince’s Ruby at Bosworth….?

Imperial State Crown, with the Black Prince’s Ruby at the front
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Prince%27s_Ruby

“….It is said that Henry V wore it [the Black Prince’s Ruby] in his jewel-encrusted helmet at the battle of Agincourt, and Richard III did also at the battle of Bosworth….”

I found the above sentence in a post on the British Medieval History Facebook group. How very intriguing. It’s something I had never heard before. Did Richard really wear the priceless but cursed gem at Bosworth? If so, was he (as one friend has suggested) emulating Henry V? Or even the Black Prince himself?

The ruby is actually “a magnificent 170-carat red spinel, the largest uncut spinel in the world. This particular precious stone, known as ‘the Great Imposter’, has a traceable history dating back seven centuries and is rumoured to be cursed, as its consecutive royal owners have been dogged by adversity, misfortune, tragedy or just downright bad luck.

I learn every day, because not only had I never heard the Richard-at-Bosworth story, but I didn’t know the stone was also called the Great Imposter!

One thing is certain; the ruby certainly doesn’t always mean good luck for its owner, as can be seen at here, which provides a potted history of the ruby’s progress through the centuries. Thankfully, our present queen seems to be bearing up remarkably well in spite of the supposed curse.

It didn’t bring good fortune to the Black Prince, who suffered a truly miserable demise, as did Richard II. The usurper Henry IV didn’t enjoy good health or a happy, trouble-free reign. Henry V was doing brilliantly, until his health was destroyed at an early age. Henry VI…well, he was just the wrong man in the wrong place, and not at all suited to be king. Edward IV was also doing brilliantly, until he took the eye off the ball and allowed himself to go to seed, so to speak. He died young.

Then there is poor Richard, for whom true happiness was always to be elusive. He tried hard to do the right thing, but it’s like being a present-day driver. You can do everything by the book…it’s just the other idiots on the road! Can the ruby be blamed for the deaths of Queen Anne Neville and Richard’s only legitimate son? And for the betrayal and defeat he suffered at Bosworth?

Graham Turner – my favourite image of Richard at Bosworth.
Is it possible that the jewel at the front of his helm is the famous ruby?
from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-23106651

And if the fatal gem then proceeded to Henry VII, it didn’t bring him a contented life either. Success as a king, maybe, but he was beset by foes and pretenders to his stolen throne, and I think personal happiness eluded him, especially after the death of his queen, Elizabeth of York. He died in his bed, but it was a miserable death.

The interest of this blog ends with Henry VII – well, it does for me. But the Black Prince’s Ruby has certainly brought mixed blessings to his successors.

Anyway, back to whether or not Richard could have worn it at Bosworth. Does anyone know of this story? Is it fact, or fiction? I hope someone can provide the answer.

A HATPIN & A MYSTERY

Edward IV’S Hatpin?

 

A fabulous archaeological find has turned up in a Lincolnshire fields–a beautiful golden hatpin shaped like the Sun in Splendour and bearing an intact amethyst stone. An extremely high status object without a doubt and estimated at £15,000.

But whose was it?

Unfortunately the article accompanying the find is full of hilarious errors. First it states the pin was made around 1485…but  goes on to mention Edward died in 1483. So he had it made after he was dead? It  goes on to call Edward Richard III’s father instead of his brother (this appears to have now been corrected, thankfully!) and worst of all, shows a picture of Henry Tudor wearing a similar brooch but labelled the portrait as Edward. (Um, Edward was called the ‘most handsome prince in Europe. Henry? Um, well…)

So, how to unravel this mystery? Well, it’s definitely not Henry Tudor’s. He would not have worn the Sun in Splendor and if you look at his hat brooch in the mis-described painting, the centre area appears to be a red rose and the outer edges more ‘frilled.’

Edward IV WAS in Lincolnshire as the article states, quelling a rebellion in 1470. However, therein lies the problem–the brooch is supposed ‘by experts’ to be from around 1485, some 15 years later… However, dating of such objects is done stylistically, and there has to be, of necessity, a range of dates.

What is interesting, of course, is that Richard WAS also in Lincolnshire but much closer to the 1485 provisional date for the hatpin. He was at Lincoln when he received the news of Buckingham’s rebellion in October 1483 and continued through Lincolnshire to Grantham, undoubtedly at a great speed. In 1484, he was in Lincolnshire again, when stopped at Gainsborough Hall… Although Richard’s main badge was the White Boar, he also used the Sun in Splendour as a badge of the House of York, along with the White Rose.

Sadly, the actual ownership of the pin will probably never be resolved. Here is a much better article on the hatpin that covers some possibilities for ownership, including John of Lincoln and others. Possible Owners of the Hat pin

The real Edward, unlike in the article…

British (English) School; Edward IV (1442-1483)

 

It is so good to clear this matter up

Here is a piece about a pearl and diamond pendant, formerly owned by Marie Antoinette and was sold recently in Geneva.
Anyone who heard BBC news coverage during the week of this event may well have learned two things:
1) “She ordered it before she was executed.”
Really? How do you order a pendant posthumously and where do you put it without a head?
2) “She was the last Queen of France.” – except for two others, including her own daughter (technically). There were also three Empresses up to 1870.

The Regale of France ruby: from a French king to Becket’s tomb to Henry VIII….and then lost.

Becket's tomb as it was in medieval period

Whatever the truth about this amazing ruby, it must be (still is?) one heck of a precious stone. It belonged to a French king, and leapt from his ring to attach itself to the tomb of Thomas Becket, who was born 900 years ago today, in Canterbury. The ruby then ended up belonging to Henry VIII (who had it removed from the tomb and put in a thumb ring for himself). George IV then had Henry’s tomb opened up, in the belief the ruby would be inside, but it wasn’t. So where did it go?

Was the lost coronet/crown of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, really the lost crown of King Arthur. . .?

Crown Jewels

The above illustration is of the British Crown Jewels as we know them now, but there were predecessors, long gone now, thanks to the efforts of Oliver Cromwell, who had no truck with such baubles.

This image is of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, crowned and seated beneath his personal arms.We are inclined to forget that there was a Welsh crown too, until it was seized by Edward I in 1283. The picture immediately above is of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, crowned and seated beneath his arms. It is not contemporary, but is set when he paid homage to Henry III in 1267.

Arms_of_Wales - with possibly Llewelyn's coronet on topThe next illustration above is from the 16th century, and shows the arms of Wales, surmounted by a crown of unusual design. Llywelyn’s crown was still around at this time (pre-Cromwell) and so this may well be an accurate depiction of the crown that Edward I seized in 1283.

Llywelyn’s crown (Talaith Llywelyn) was left at Cymer Abbey (together with other priceless items) at the start of Llywelyn’s final campaign, but was seized by Edward I when Llywelyn was killed in 1282.

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The death of Llywelyn and his grave at Cymher (Cymhir) For more about the abbey, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbeycwmhir

Taken to Westminster Abbey, it was presented to the shrine of Edward the Confessor as a symbol of the crushing of the Welsh. Before this presentation it was coated in gold to make it look more impressive, which the contributor to Wikipedia thinks is an indication that the original was perhaps made of iron. shrine edward confessor

It remained in Westminster Abbey, until transferred to the Tower of London at the beginning of the 14th century. It remained in English hands until Oliver Cromwell came along, warts and all. Or rather, it does not appear to have still been present when he melted down the Crown Jewels. Where had it gone? And when?

Tapestry showing Arthur wearing a coat of arms often attributed to him. c. 1385

Tapestry showing Arthur, circa 1385

No one knows the age of this lost crown, or what else was left with it at Cymer Abbey. However, when it was all seized by Edward I, the crown of King Arthur was said to have been among it. This latter crown was believed to have been forged much earlier. Now, whether the “crown of Arthur” is a general term for principality of Wales, or refers to the actual crown of King Arthur is not known. And there is some confusion as to whether this crown of Arthur was actually the same item as Llywelyn’s crown. One and the same crown. If it was indeed the crown of King Arthur. It was truly priceless.

Maybe it still is, if we knew where to look. . .

In the meantime, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd is still remembered. See https://alchetron.com/Llywelyn-ap-Gruffudd

Cofeb_llywelyn_ap_gruffydd_fychan

 

 

The Fabulous Cheapside Hoard….

Cheapside Hoard - examples

I have just watched a fascinating BBC documentary from 2013, concerning the amazing hoard of 17th-Century (and earlier) jewels that was found in Cheapside at the beginning of the 20th Century. The documentary is called Secret Knowledge: The Hidden Jewels of the Cheapside Hoard, and was presented by modern jeweller, Shaun Leane. You can see it here.

If you Google the hoard, there are countless sites that deal with it. The link below is just one that I picked out. The subject of buried jewels is always engrossing, with so many possible reasons why they were buried. This hoard was, apparently, entirely forgotten, and would still be lost were it not for the utter transformation and rebuilding of Cheapside. Original foundations, vaults and cellars were found again…and so were these priceless jewels.

Watching the documentary isn’t obligatory, but it certainly helps, because the camera goes in so close and personal, encircling these objects and showing every detail.

See also here.

The Thame Hoard….

Buckingham - St Rumwald's Well - map

Reliquary Ring from Thame Hoard

I’m surprised that I have never heard of this hoard before. It was found in 1940, so has been in the public eye for longer than I’ve graced this earth.

 

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