The Cheapside Hoard – a HUGE amount of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery discovered by builders in 1912 underneath a cellar and saved by a pawnbroker connected to the Guildhall and London Museum. And right now they’re all on display at the Museum of London.
Clearly if you’re into jewellery this is a big deal, its all very shiny and pretty and old and there’s simply loads of it on display. But I found it all a bit over/underwhelming on first look – just case after case of jewellery. I guess what I would have really wanted was for them to recreate an Elizabethan jeweller’s, maybe even some people dressed up to tell you about the jewellery you could pretend to be shopping for – but that was never going happen as the whole point was about showing the hoard all together for the first time.
So I had a good look at the prettiness on display – with the looping necklaces being a bit of a favourite in Elizabethan times as ladies would ‘rather wear a cheap metal counterfeit than remain unchained’ and a portrait of Mary Cotton, a merchant’s wife, depicting the fashion of attaching rings to clothing. The antique stones used were also really nice, with a 1st century Roman agate that had been re-used on display.
The elements of social history don’t take too much effort to discover and it seems very fitting that Elizabeth I’s love of clothing and jewellery can be looked at through a collection of such value and magnitude. The number of emeralds on display are thanks to the new era of exploration and trade links, with most coming from Colombia via the Spanish and trade by an international network of gem merchants. And finally, the very reason the hoard was buried may well be related to the difficult times of the period (1640-1666)- plague, fire, civil wars and religious extremism.
So I wasn’t bowled over by the exhibition, but there really is loads to see and each area, if not each piece of jewellery, has its own story to tell.
Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels
Until 27 April 2014