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The provenance of the collection remains a mystery
The provenance of the collection remains a mystery

Mystery jewellery goes on show

The Cheapside Hoard, an incredible 500-piece collection of Jacobean and Elizabethan jewellery that lay hidden beneath a cellar for about 300 years, is to be exhibited to the public.
Widely regarded as the most important of its type in the world, the collection was last seen in its entirety shortly after it was uncovered by a demolition team in 1912.

The treasure trove of jewellery will form an exhibition at the Museum of London, set to open in October. It comprises rings, gold chains, enamelled pieces and a watch that is encased in a gigantic Colombian emerald.

The provenance of the collection, however, remains a mystery. Speculation is rife on whether the hoard was pirate booty, a Jacobean burglar’s swag or perhaps an opportune collection of pieces rescued from the Great Fire of London.

But curator of the exhibition, Hazel Forsyth, believed it was most likely to have been the inventory of a Cheapside goldsmith, who must have died before he could return to retrieve it.

It is presumed his clients would have been extremely wealthy merchants who would have commissioned the unique pieces. The discovery site, Cheapside, was one of London’s most fashionable luxury shopping streets in the late 17th century.

Forsyth said one of the more remarkable features of the collection was the variety and quality of the gemstones, which can be traced to Colombia, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Iran and the Sinai Peninsula.

Pieces in the find include a gold pendant cross set with seven heavily-foiled pink sapphires and rose-cut diamonds; a gold and enamel pendant set with red and green pastes; a gold and enamel pendant set with two sapphires and an irregular polished spinel; a watch set in a single Colombian emerald crystal; a salamander brooch; a gilt brass verge watch; and an onyx cameo depicting Aesop's fable, The Dog and the Shadow, and a carved emerald parrot.

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