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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Famed and Mysterious ‘Cheapside Hoard’ Jewels to go on Display at Museum of London

Bloodstone carved into the form of a strawberry leaf. Photo Credit: Museum of London

The Cheapside Hoard, considered the world’s largest and finest collection of jewelry from Britain's Elizabethan and early Stuart periods, will go on display at the Museum of London, beginning October 11.

Emerald, diamond and enamel Salamander brooch. Photo Credit: Museum of London

The items were found accidentally by construction workers 101 years ago hidden in a London cellar near St. Paul’s cathedral. Even though many of the pieces have been exhibited at different times and at different venues, it will be the first time that the entire collection of 500 pieces will be placed on display.

Colombian emerald watch. Photo Credit: Museum of London

The pieces include cascading necklaces, Byzantine cameos and jeweled scent bottles. Highlights include a cabochon emerald and yellow gold salamander brooch, a watch mounted in a single large emerald with a translucent green enamel dial, and enamel and gem-set Elizabethan necklace chains decorated with floral motifs.

Gold and enamel chain with floral links. Photo Credit: Museum of London

An oval gem engraved with the heraldic badge of William Howard, the first and only Viscount Stafford, (1612-1680), was the latest datable item in the collection. This and other clues led researchers to conclude that the treasures were buried between 1640 and 1666.

Carnelian intaglio with Stafford heraldic badge. Photo Credit: Museum of London

“The Cheapside Hoard has been swathed in mystery, rich in questions that had been left unanswered for too long,” said Hazel Forsyth, exhibition curator. “The Stafford intaglio has been absolutely vital in shedding new light on the collection, providing crucial dating evidence for the deposition of the Hoard between 1640 and 1666, and making a specific link to an individual who had international connections and a penchant for collecting gems and antiquities.”

Cabochon emerald ring. Photo Credit: Museum of London

The name, cheapside, was the name of the main shopping street in London during the 17th Century—cheap actually meant market. There were jewelers who worked on the street.

Byzantine amethyst cameo depicting St George and St Demetrios, 6th century AD. Photo Credit: Museum of London

There is still plenty of mystery that surrounds the Cheapside Hoard. For example, researchers are fairly certain that the hoard represents a goldsmith-jeweler’s stock-in-trade. However, no one knows who this person was and why he hid the items and never returned for them.

Onyx cameo depicting Aesop's Fable, The Dog and the Shadow. Photo Credit: Museum of London

The exhibition will consider these questions and others and will present the pieces within its historical context that will reflect the craftsmanship, taste and fashion of the period. It will also look at London’s role in the international gem trade in its age of global conquest and exploration.

Gold and enamel pendant set with two sapphires and an irregular polished spinel. Photo Credit: Museum of London

The exhibition will run till April 27, 2014. Sponsors of the event are luxury jewelry house, Fabergé, and its owner, colored gemstone miner and marketer, Gemfields.

Gild brass verge watch – the Hoard’s only signed piece, c1600. Photo Credit: Museum of London

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Gold bow pendant set with rose-cut and step-cut foil-backed rubies and table-cut diamonds. Photo Credit: Museum of London