Sunday 17 November 2013

The Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels

Image from Museum of London website
In 1912 a glimmer in the ground was seen while work was being carried out in Cheapside, London. Further digging revealed a hoard of jewels that had been sitting, unclaimed, in the London soil for centuries. Thankfully, the workmen were honest and the hoard ended up in the care of the Museum of London. 

This is the first time that the entire hoard has been on display since its discovery, and the level of security around the exhibition certainly emphasises just how important a collection it is. There are glittering jewels everywhere you look, and they are stunningly beautiful. The skill of the craftsmen who made the jewellery is apparent from the intricate work on show. It's not all Elizabethan and Jacobean treasures, some of the loot originated much further back in history.

The inclusion of examples of dress and portraiture are a wonderful way of gaining some understanding of how the jewels would have been worn. They look lovely glittering away in the cabinets, but it's great to have a bit of context. So eager to show off their wealth that often extra items would be tied to clothing - something I'd never noticed in portraits before.

An opportunity to see the entire hoard on display is not one to be missed (and if it's another hundred years before it goes on display again this is a once in a lifetime opportunity). The mystery remains as to whose hoard it is and why they never came back for it. In such a turbulent age there is no shortage of possibilities, and it's unlikely we'll ever know for sure.

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