This exhibition is on until 27th April 2014, so if
you can get to it, go. If you can’t get to it, buy the book. Having said that
getting into the exhibition is interesting, no cameras, no bags, no coats
(lockers are available), past security guards and through a full height turnstile,
it’s like getting into a bank vault, but then this is serious jewellery.
|The Cheapside Hoard|
In 1912 some workmen discovered a large cache of late
sixteenth, early seventeenth century jewellery in a cellar in Cheapside.
Cheapside is a major road in the City of London running, roughly, from St Paul’s
Cathedral east towards the Bank of England, and in the early seventeenth
century contained many goldsmiths’ shops. The hoard was purchased and divided
between the London Museum, the Guildhall and the British Museum. This is the
first time all 400 odd pieces have been brought together. The first part of the
exhibition covers all of this information with photographs, contemporary illustrations,
maps, and some wonderful early shop signs. It then goes on to set the scene of
London in the first half of the 17th century, the work of goldsmiths
and jewellers, and their shops.
The discussion of where the jewels themselves come from is
fascinating because it gives an idea of how wide the trade routes were. There
are sapphires from Burma, India and Sri Lanka, while some amethysts came from
India others were sourced from Ethiopia, Bohemia, Albania and Brazil. Rubies and
garnets were from Burma, India and Sri Lanka, turquoise from Persia. Emeralds
were from Colombia, and include a spectacular
watch in an emerald case.
The exhibition, and the book, is particularly good at matching
jewellery in paintings with examples in the collection. There are chains
meant worn in loops like those that appear on the portrait
of a woman previously thought to be Mary, Queen of Scots. There are
earrings like those worn by the Countess
of Southampton, and there are plenty
of rings as worn by Margaret
Cotton both on her hand and in her ruff. Interesting there are not many
pearls, though this maybe because they have not survived the conditions in
which they were hidden, however there is a lovely tiny
pin, topped with a ship the hull made from a baroque pearl and the rigging
There is a discussion in both the exhibition and the book as
to when the hoard may have been hidden. There is a datable
watch made by Gaultier Ferlite, probably between 1610 and 1620, it is the
only watch made by him to have survived. There is also a seal with the arms of
a Viscount Stafford, the only person to fit this became a viscount in 1637.
A BBC4 programme on the Cheapside Hoard, made to coincide
with the exhibition, is not currently available via the BBC website, but it is
available online in two parts from YouTube:
The book London's Lost Jewels: The Cheapside Hoard by Hazel
Forsyth. Publisher: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd ISBN 13: 9781781300206 ISBN
10: 1781300208 £19.95
Reproductions of some of the jewels are available from the museum shop, though the
amethyst earrings are £349 – Christmas presents ladies?