Hidden Jewelry Treasures: The Cheapside Hoard

by Nancy Plante March 22, 2018

Hidden Jewelry Treasures: The Cheapside Hoard

 

Imagine a dusty, dark cellar below three ancient rowhouses in the heart of London. Workmen are demolishing the houses, and there are boards, bricks, tools and dirt everywhere.  When a workman's tool strikes a decayed wooden box, what spills out catches the light. A treasure trove of almost 500 pieces of jewelry, not seen for nearly 300 years, has been unearthed.

This was the scene in the summer of 1912, in the Cheapside area of London, when amazing treasures were discovered.  They form a time capsule of jewelry that had been hidden sometime before the Great Fire of 1666, ranging from the latest fashions of the day to ancient jewels from all around the world.

The Cheapside Hoard, as this collection is called, has captured the imagination of many people in the jewelry world and beyond.  I find it absolutely fascinating!  Who hid the jewelry, and why didn't they ever come back for it?  Was it a jeweler who used the cellar as his safe? (The location in Cheapside was a jewelry manufacturing district in the 1500's and 1600's.) Was it a thief who suddenly had to stash his loot and planned to retrieve it later?

The jewels are also fascinating. Most jewelry is refashioned over the years (just like we do for our customers here at Plante's!), but these pieces are frozen in time.  Their craftsmanship is evidence of how jewelry was made up until the late 17th century.

In 2013 the Museum of London mounted a show of the treasures of the Cheapside Hoard.  The collection includes gemstone pieces, with gemstones from all around the globe, showing London's importance as a center of international trade.  It also includes rare, long chains with decorative enameling, functional objects like tankards and a stunning scent bottle, and intricately carved agate cameos.

This video shows some of the beautiful treasures made by long-ago artisans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTIqSp3VTiU

For a long, in-depth article with more videos, click here: 

https://www.gia.edu/gems-gemology/fa13-cheapside-hoard-weldon





Nancy Plante
Nancy Plante

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