Our knowledge of gems of the Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobean eras is from the portraits painted reflecting the wealth of the individual … together with documentary sources … but little actual jewellery.
|Some of the many gemstones
The power dresser of the time was Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) … who had scattered her glad-rags with the jewels of the day and ensured symbols also appeared in the portraits informing courtiers and populace alike that she was the Queen of England and its realms.
Pearls were the jewels of the 1500s, while the herbalists pounded and smashed all manner of ‘delights’ including pearls – whose white powder became much like aspirin today. Holly of I AM HR Sinclair has a Writer’sGuide to Crystals and Gemstones.
Elizabeth 1 had black diamonds on her dresses (they were painted black) and were called ‘black fire’ … the Hugenots in 17th C Antwerp finally found the magic in diamonds … by cutting one diamond with another.
Elizabeth used other status symbols – her hand resting on a globe: ruling the known world; her black dress was a symbol of constancy, the ermine included for purity, while gold showed wealth …
As a side note – apparently the jewellery used in the costumes for Wolf Hall is spot on for that Tudor period. I haven’t watched the series yet, as it started too soon after the operation for me to concentrate.
Cheapside, where the Hoard was found, is a common English street name, meaning “market place”, and has spawned the words chapman and chapbook … seemingly derived from the word for itinerant salesmen, who would sell such books: chapman. Chapman comes in turn from Old English cēap (barter, business, dealing).
As Charles Dickens, Jr. wrote in his 1879 book Dickens’s Dictionary of London (c/oWikipedia): Cheapside remains now what it was five centuries ago, the greatest thoroughfare in the City of London.
|(1538) Edward V1's Procession - along Cheapside
At its west end near St Paul’s Cathedral, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths still plies its trade: Originating in the 12th century, it received its Royal Charter in 1327.
The range of a goldsmith’s trade was somewhat wider than might be imagined covering: goldsmiths with bankers and jewellers; bankers with goldsmiths and pawnbrokers; jewellers with goldsmiths and toymen.
The new buildings erected after the Great Fire of 1666, altered and added to, were so higgledy-piggledy and ramshackle that the Goldsmiths in 1910 decided to raze some of them.
An unusual clause was inserted into the agreement, and provision was made for any antique treasure that might be uncovered … be the property of the lessors: the Goldsmiths.
|The Cheapside cache
Demolition began – the workmen discovered a tangled heap of jewellery, gems and other precious objects … they had uncovered what we know today as the Cheapside Hoard: the stock-in-trade of a seventeenth jeweller.
The workmen unaware of any judicial arrangements … did what they did with any trinkets/coinage etc they uncovered … took their find to “Stony Jack” Lawrence (1862-1939): a pawnbroker, dealer, collector of antiquities and sometime employee of both the Guildhall and London museums … announcing “We’ve struck a toy shop, I thinks guvnor!”
|A gold pin with a blister pearl
in the form of a ship with fine
gold wire mast and rigging
Workmanship reflected in the variety of stones, enamelling and settings … all serve to underline London’s position at the crossroads of international gem and jewellery trade in one of the most dynamic periods of English history: stones found included …
- Emeralds from Colombia
- Bohemian and Hungarian opal, garnet and amethyst
- Topaz and Amazonite from Brazil
- Indian diamonds
- Burmese rubies
- Sri Lankan pink sapphires
- Afghan lapis lazuli
- Persian turquoise
- Pearls from Bahrain
- Peridot from the Red Sea
- Gold, amethysts, cabochon azurite-malachite gem ... while relatively few pearls survived after being buried for approximately 350 years.
- Some fake gemstones made of carved and dyed quartz …
This tangled magical treasure trove … was eventually unravelled – most of the Hoard going to the new London Museum (under the auspices of the Goldsmiths), while the two established institutions the British Museum received some pieces, with the Victoria and Albert being donated a few …
We know the history – who ruled, what was going on, while research into the stash of jewellery and artefacts revealed probably the time frame.
|Ferlite watch on left, and the
incredible Emerald-cased watch
A highly sophisticated watch by Gaultier Ferlite – bears the maker’s mark … and was almost certainly made in Geneva between 1610 and 1620. Ferlite’s parents had lived in London.
A tiny red cornelian seal can be attributed to William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford, who as a catholic had fled abroad … suggesting that the Hoard was buried in the cellar after 1640/41 at the start of the English Civil Wars …
… when the turbulent times of the 16th and 17th centuries had taken their toll on the populace of London: the Civil Wars and plague had taken the men, who traded and worked here … the treasure trove lay forgotten … and was subsequently subsumed by the Great Fire of 1666.
This is the story of the Cheapside Hoard … which has led researchers to uncover unknown facts, for us to be able to see a large collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery in its finest settings and for the first time … and they unravelled the Cheapside Hoard’s imbroglio.
|Exquisite scent bottle: Enamelled gold, opals,
opaline chalcedony, diamonds, rubies,
pink sapphires and spinels
The Jewellery Editor has a short video just over 3 mins, a write up and some other photos of the display jewels.
Museum of London Prints.com - will show you any number of postcards and prints
The Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels by Hazel Forsyth - this book has amazing information about the hoard, that period of history, the jewels and their origins, the method of making the jewellery, Cheapside, trade and the world relative to the hoard. A worthwhile purchase and read.
Article for The Goldsmiths' Company by Dr David Mitchell
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