Tuesday 28 July 2015

The power of gold – Costume Society Conference 2015

At the beginning of the month I went to London and the Victoria and Albert Museum for the 50th anniversary conference of the Costume Society. Being the 50th the theme was gold, and many of the papers returned to the subject of gold jewellery. There were a large number of good papers; those papers mentioned below are just those that covered, in whole or in part, the early modern period. These are my recollections of what was said.

Romy Cockx -Exhibiting the power of gold in Antwerp
This paper was on the new museum soon to be opened in Antwerp amalgamating the collections of the Zilvermuseum and the Diamantmuseum. Antwerp was a centre from trade with the east by 1501. Romy spoke of the early cuts of diamonds, and the move from the table cut of the 16th century with the rose cut appearing by 1615. The flat rose cut was associated with Antwerp and the full rose cut with Amsterdam. The brilliant cut did not appear until later.

Natasha Awais-Dean – Glittering garments and precious pieces
Men and jewellery in Tudor and Jacobean England was the subject of Natasha’s PhD thesis, and her book on the subject is due to be published by the British Museum Press in 2016. Natasha looked not only at what was worn by the rich, but also at the few items that survive that might have been worn by those lower down the social scale, for example a gilded copper-bronze ring listed on the PAS database. She also looked at the wearing of gold chains as a way of carrying your money around with you. She used as an example gold chains found around the neck of a victim of the Spanish1622 Atocha sinking, the weight of the chains is exactly equivalent to a certain number of Spanish gold coins of the period. The question of the use of gold buttons was also examined, as she pointed out gold buttons in the Earl of Pembroke inventory are listed separately from the clothing, being listed with the jewellery, which may indicate that they could be sewn onto different clothes as required. Finally Natascha talked about hat ornaments, stating that some were made in England and some were cast in one piece, they had four loops at the edge for attaching to the hat. She said that the later aigrette styles go with the fashion for taller hats, I don't think she showed this one, which is in the British Museum.

Geoffrey Munn in conversation with Deirdre Murphy
Geoffrey Munn in conversation with Deirdre Murphy
Geoffrey Munn is the jewellery expert for the television series Antiques Roadshow and he started his conversation with Deirdre with an explanation of the meanings of the jewellery worn by Elizabeth I in the Armada portrait, the version he used was that in the National Portrait Gallery. He focused on the pearls as purity and the bow as virginity. He then went on to cross the centuries looking at later jewellery, and spoke about jewellery he owned which he had brought with him, which we were allowed to look at afterward. 

Maria Hayward – From Whitehall to Wolf Hall: gold in Henry VIII’s wardrobe
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for this paper, so I am hoping that Maria will have it published somewhere.

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