London’s lost jewels

Nearly 500 pieces of Tudor and early Stuart jewellery are to be displayed in full for the first time since they were discovered in 1912, buried under a cellar floor in London.

The-Cheapside-Hoard-(c)-Museum-of-LondonKnown as the Cheapside Hoard, after the road it was found on, the collection includes rings, necklaces, jewelled scent bottles and a unique Colombian emerald watch. It will be exhibited at the Museum of London from 11 October to 27 April 2014.

Not only is this extraordinary collection precious and beautiful to look at, the exhibition tells the story of the hoard, unveiling the secret of when it was buried. Thanks to a previously overlooked gemstone, the Stafford intaglio which is engraved with the badge of William Howard, the only Viscount Stafford, the collection can at last be dated to between 1640 and 1666.

“Ever since the unexpected discovery in June 1912, the Cheapside Hoard has been swathed in mystery, rich in questions that had been left unanswered for too long,” says 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.”

Pieces from the haul come from all over the world, including the emerald mines of Columbia and pearl banks of Bahrain. While the jewels, in all their glistening beauty will take centre stage, there will also be displays of rarely seen portraits and multimedia installations that will help visitors get a flavour of London’s role in the vibrant international gem trade of the time, and what life was like in Elizabethan and Jacobean London – as a centre of craftsmanship and conspicuous consumption, at the crossroads of the Old and New Worlds.

“The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels showcases the very best of the Museum of London,” says Sharon Ament, Director of Museum of London. “As London’s most exciting stash of buried treasure, the Cheapside Hoard tells a thrilling tale of mystery and discovery, with every jewel unlocking a story.”

Plenty of mysteries concerning the rich bounty still remain, not least who owned the hoard, why was it hidden and why was it never reclaimed?

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