The Cheapside Hoard,he greatest Elizabethan and early Stuart era jewelry collection was discovered a century ago. In 1912, workmen demolishing a building in Cheapside, a busy part of the City of London, came across a 17th century jewelr's buried stash when they were digging in the cellar.
|Colombian emerald, diamond and enamel salamander brooch|
Nearly 500 glittering pieces were unearthed - dainty long necklaces, rings, Byzantine cameos, intaglios (engraved gemstones), bejeweled scent bottles, an enameled lizard made with Colombian emeralds and even a unique Colombian emerald watch shown below.
The find is of incredible importance because so little jewelry from that time period survived. Without the Cheapside Hoard, we would know almost nothing about what early modern jewelry was like. This collection might have been lost forever had it not been for the pawnbroker. When the laborers took what they found to him, he suspected the pieces might have been more than their face value and was able to sell most of the pieces to the London Museum with a few others going to the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design.
The pieces tell us about what people wore, the craftsmanship and even about international trade back then. The gemstones included not only Colombian emeralds but diamonds from India, natural pearls from Bahrain, other gemstones from Persia and so on. Some of the fine bejeweled and enamel chains were very long - about 6 feet or more. Multi chain strands were worn as cascading loops.
|Small Scent Bottle decorated with diamonds, rubies, opals and sapphires|
|Garnet pendant hanging in front of portrait of Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton|
The burial also had to be before the Great Fire of London in 1666. The fire took several days to reach Cheapside which would have allowed the owner plenty of time to retrieve his treasure. That it remained in its hiding place and suffered some fire damage suggests the jeweler was no longer alive. It is thought he most likely buried his stash sometime in the 1640's during the English Civil War (1642-1651). It was a terrible time of turmoil, fear and uncertainty. Like many jewelers and goldsmiths, he probably went off to fight and never came back.
|Bejeweled chains and necklaces|
Hazel Forsyth, the curator and author of a soon-to-be published book, London's Lost Jewels: The Cheapside Hoard has spent years studying not just the jewels themselves but also the letters, stock lists, court documents and rent books of that era.
|Pearls as in this cage pendant showed signs of damage|
|Brass gilt watch with a maker's mark|
One juicy and recent finding is the identification of one "Thomas Sympson as the dodgy 17th century jeweler responsible for two counterfeit jewels found in the hoard." He had cut, polished and dyed rock crystal as balas ruby substitutes. Hazel Forsyth's research has revealed he was one of 18 jewelers who leased the property at 30-32 Cheapside where the hoard was discovered. Thomas Sympson also had a couple of shady relatives who received stolen goods from an unfortunate jeweler, Gerrard Pullman, who was murdered for his incredible stash of jewelry on board a ship as he was returning to London from Persia.
|Diamond and emerald cross|
The exhibition is amazing with many extras such as period clothing examples, rarely seen contemporary portraits showing people wearing the fashion and jewelry of their day. A special perfume using ingredients used during that time was also created for visitors to sniff!
Watch the video where curator Hazel Forsyth introduces the exhibition. Worth a watch especially if you can't get to the exhibition.
There is a connection between the jewels found nearly 300 years to modern day styles. Watch the Carol Woolton of Vogue's video as she explains why.
All images are courtesy of the Museum of London. More from their site.
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Before You Go:
- The Virgin Queen's Jewels
- Treasures of the Black Death Exhibition
- The Incredible Gold Ornaments of the Staffordshire Hoard
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