diamond geezer

 Friday, January 31, 2014

The Cheapside Hoard
Museum of London
(11th October 2013 - 27th April 2014)

Now's probably a good time to nudge you to visit this exhibition of mid-millennial jewellery at the Museum of London. It's been open for three months so initial numbers have died down a bit, but it's not yet Easter when last-minuters start queuing round the block. The exhibition contains approximately 500 pieces of jewellery which were buried together beneath a shop in the City in the mid-17th century, then forgotten and built over after the Great Fire of London. Workmen rediscovered the stash by chance during rebuilding on Cheapside in 1912, and took them to a dealer who recognised this as an amazing find. They've been in the possession of museum curators ever since, and this is the very first time the whole collection's been on show to the public. You can tell the subject matter is extremely valuable because coats and bags aren't allowed inside the exhibition, so you have to fork out an extra quid on top of the £8 admission charge for a locker. I struggled for some time to operate mine, even though I knew my pound coin had to go somewhere, until the kindly attendant pointed out the slot on the inside of the locker door. Further protection is provided by a wall-to-ceiling turnstile set into a metal grille across the entrance, and once inside you fall under the watchful eye of an employee of Sherpa Security Services (est 2005).

The introductory galleries explain a little about City goldsmithery and Elizabethan/Stuart jewellery, setting the main display in historical context. There's plenty to learn on the wiggle-through, including the fact that the site on Cheapside has now been covered by the One New Change shopping centre so there's no longer any point in going digging. Then comes the exhibition proper, not just a small area but an entire long gallery showcasing all the treasures unearthed. First up are the necklaces, hung inside brightly-lit glass cases, and if you picked up a magnifying glass at the start you can peer closer to see the craftsmanship of the gilded links. Beyond are pendants and rings set with pearls and a variety of other precious stones, plus a geological display that'll help you to tell your amethyst from your agate. I was particularly taken by a tiny watch, with lid, embedded in an emerald, which was damned impressive stuff for circa 1600. I also really liked an elegant bejewelled salamander brooch and, in a neighbouring cabinet, a bulging white and gold scent bottle set with diamonds and opals. I was rather less excited by the collection of cameos at the far end of the room, despite the great antiquity of some, and even though the skills needed to carve their intricate designs must have been immense.

The great majority of visitors to the exhibition were a) over 60 b) female, so I felt very much the odd one out as I wandered round. But there were a few dutiful husbands in tow, and also two annoying mothers jabbering away about family problems with barely a glance at the collection as they sped round. Immediately before the exit is a five minute video which attempts to suggest how the hoard might have been lost in the first place. This tale of Civil War migration seemed a little contrived - a fiction granted too much importance - and a few more competing theories would have been welcome. And then it was out to struggle with the locker again, after almost an hour spent in accessory heaven. It had been good to enjoy what might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to view these amazing miniature works of art, and without huge numbers of people getting in the way. Assuming you have a midweek day off work between now and Easter, I'd recommend seeing the Hoard without the hordes.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream