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London’s most exquisite stash of buried treasure

— July 2013

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The Stafford Intaglio. Image courtesy Museum of London

An overlooked intaglio (see image above) holds a vital clue in dating the world’s finest collection of Elizabethan and Early Stuart jewellery – The Cheapside Hoard.

‘The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels’, Museum of London, 11 October 2013 – 27 April 2014 (Advance tickets on sale now)

A previously overlooked intaglio (a gemstone with an engraved design) has proved instrumental in unlocking the secrets behind the world’s largest and most exquisite cache of Elizabethan and Early Stuart jewellery, known as the Cheapside Hoard. We now know that it was buried between 1640 and 1666 – a giant leap forward in solving some of the mysteries surrounding this dazzling haul of jewels.

Blazoned with the heraldic badge of William Howard, the first and only Viscount Stafford, (1612–80), new research has shown the 10mm x 8mm oval intaglio to be the latest datable item in the Hoard. This alongside recent excavations at the site of discovery that shows clear evidence of damage caused by the Great Fire of London has seen the Museum of London accurately date the burial of the Hoard for the first time.  

Dated between 1640, when Stafford was granted the peerage and before 1666, when the Great Fire of London ravaged the city, the intaglio will go on display at the Museum of London this October as part of the major new exhibition, ‘The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels’.

The exhibition marks the first time that the Cheapside Hoard has been displayed in its entirety since its chance discovery deep under a cellar floor in London’s Cheapside over 100 years ago in 1912.  

At nearly 500 glittering pieces strong, the Hoard includes delicate finger rings, cascading necklaces, Byzantine cameos, beautiful jewelled scent bottles, and a unique Colombian emerald watch. Now known to be a jeweller’s stock-in-trade, this priceless collection of jewels is the City of London’s most exquisite stash of buried treasure. And it is the single most important source of our knowledge on early modern jewellery worldwide.

Hazel Forsyth, exhibition curator, has explained:

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. 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.

Bringing all 500 pieces of the Cheapside Hoard together for the first time in 100 years has been no mean feat. Yet it has allowed the museum to explore this unrivalled collection with a renewed zeal. New research and 3D technology has brought about many surprising findings, allowing visitors to get even closer to the Hoard and its time. From construction techniques once used but now forgotten to what the Cheapside Hoard can tell us about the jewellery and gemstone trade at the time, this exhibition will tackle many unanswered questions, bringing to life Elizabethan and Early Stuart London in new and exciting ways.

Sharon Ament, Director, Museum of London said:

‘The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels’ showcases the very best of the Museum of London. Our vision is to create a revitalized, world-class museum through state-of-the-art galleries and exhibitions jam-packed with ground-breaking research and historical objects. The Museum of London tells the story of the world’s greatest city and its people. And, as London’s most exciting stash of buried treasure, the Cheapside Hoard tells a thrilling tale of mystery and discovery, with every jewel and gemstone unlocking a story.  

From the emerald mines of Colombia to the diamond gravels of India and pearl banks of Bahrain, pieces from the Hoard that will go on display hail from all corners of the world, showcasing London’s role in the international gem trade in an age of global conquest and exploration. Although embroiled in mystery, each piece tells a tantalizing story, from gift giving at the Elizabethan court to tales of international trade and discovery and vignettes on fashion, wealth and power.

The Cheapside Hoard will be displayed alongside rarely seen portraits, multimedia installations and historical objects from the Museum of London’s collection, painting an unprecedented picture of the fashions and culture at play in Tudor and early Stuart London.  

Admission charges apply. Advance tickets now on sale

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