Current Lecture Programme
Tuesdays at 6:00pm. Members and Guests.
Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly W1J 0BE
All lectures from March - June 2020 were postponed due to the corona virus lockdown. We started the new season in September 2020 with lectures only available online via zoom. All members are sent an email with details of how to login in advance of each lecture. Please let the Membership Secretary know if you would like to be added to the list at
email@example.com. We hope to return to Burlington House as soon as it is safe to do so.
We will be loading all past online lectures on the SJH website, and hope to continue to make lectures available online in the future, including those that take place at the Society of Antiquaries when we have returned there.
If you missed a lecture, you can access past lectures
here (members only).
Lectures are restricted to members and their guests. It is not normally necessary to inform the Society that you will be atttending, but if attendance is expected to be exceptionally high the Society will inform members well in advance if booking a seat is a
requirement of attendance at a particular lecture.
If you are not a member, and would like to attend a lecture as a guest of the Society, click here to send your name, contact details, and the subject of the lecture you would like to attend. We will confirm your attendance by email. The Society welcomes new members. If you are interested in joining the Society further details can be given to you when you attend the lecture.
Lectures from March to June will be on zoom. The format for later lectures will be confirmed as soon as possible.
Chinese jade jewellery and ornaments from the Neolithic to the Present
lecture postponed from 24 March 2020.
Chinese jade jewellery: A chronological survey. Jade has been prized in China since Neolithic times. In the West diamonds, gold and silver have usually been the most valued materials but, for the Chinese, jade has long been at the top of the hierarchy of the materials they most treasured. Jade working began in China probably over 5,000 years ago in the north-eastern part of what is China today. Over the succeeding millennia both nephrite and jadeite jade have been fashioned into jewellery and amulets, both worn in lifetime and buried with the owner for use and protection in the afterlife. This lecture will look at how this tactile but very tough material has been used over time.
lecture by Gonçalo de Vasconcelos e Sousa postponed to May 2022
Jewels of the Devonshire Collection
The Cavendishes have been at Chatsworth since 1549. This lecture will focus on pieces which demonstrate the changes in fortune and taste which have shaped the collection as it is today. The speaker will show pieces made for marriages, worn to coronations and photographed by Cecil Beaton, as well as discuss pieces no longer in the collection and touch on some of the reasons why. She will discuss examples from the 1500’s to the present and introduce pieces associated with Bess of Hardwick, William, 2nd Duke of Devonshire, Richard, 3rd Earl Burlington William, 6thDuke and Duchesses Evelyn, Mary, Deborah and Amanda and explain why Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is absent from this list.
lecture by Karl Schmetzer postponed to June 2022
Finding function - the interpretation of gold ornaments from Late Bronze Age Ireland
While gold is an important element of the metalwork of the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Ages in Ireland, the amount remaining from the later period is extraordinary. Most of this gold survives in the form of personal ornaments, many with no known function, at least not one that can be determined from strictly archaeological evidence. This lecture will re-examine the forms these objects take and propose uses for them. It will also suggest that in some cases inspiration came from bronze pieces which were re-interpreted to form distinctive ceremonial objects made of gold, a metal imbued with power and magic derived from the sun.
lecture postponed from 24 November 2020
Colour in Victorian Jewellery
Although diamonds and pearls remained the choice at court and among the social elite, colour defines fashion and modernity in mid-Victorian jewellery design, through historicism and archaeological revivalism, to Orientalism, the exotic cultures of India, Japan and the Islamic world. In the 1850s, jewellery was in decline. The Middle Ages and English Renaissance offered models that would shape a contemporary idiom and realise the aims of Design Reform. New sources of coloured stones, particularly cabochon garnets, enabled jewels to complement brilliant dye-colours in dress. Revived enamelling techniques further enhanced the colour palette. ‘Pebble’ collecting fed a taste for regional novelties. The Language of Flowers, plant hunting, horticulture and hybridisation encouraged accurate representation of nature in precious materials and coloured gems. Fashion is less important than etiquette or sentiment. Intrinsic value and display denoted taste and culture, success and wealth in a significant new audience for jewellery, the increasingly prosperous middle class. Colour was, however, controversial, and jewellery offers an opportunity to examine Victorian attitudes to one aspect of the discussion.
New Research on Jewellery
Sculptural Minimalism & Fairtrade Gold — philosophy, provenance and process
lecture postponed from 26 May 2020.
The Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council Design Award winner in 2020, Ute Decker’s work is a meditation on the richness of simplicity. Self-taught, she first exhibited her wearable sculptures in 2009 at the age of 40, and quickly earned international recognition as “the architectural jeweller” for the sweeping scale and ambition of her minimalist sculptures. She is also one of the very first jewellers in the world to work with Fairtrade Gold. In this talk she will discuss her creative philosophy and how a background in political economics and journalism led her to become a leading voice in the international ethical jewellery movement.
Gonçalo de Vasconcelos e Sousa
TBA - An aspect of Portuguese jewellery
The late 14th-Century Royal Crown of Blanche of Lancaster
A richly bejewelled crown preserved in the Treasury of the Munich Residence offers a window into aspects of both the broader world of European dynastic history and the narrower field of decorative practices and gemstone use. The crown’s history can be traced from the late 14th-century court of Richard II and his wife Anne of Bohemia in London to its role as part of the dowry in 1402 of Blanche of Lancaster, bride of the future Elector Palatine Louis III. The gem materials decorating the piece, one of few extant examples of Late Middle Ages royal regalia, were determined to be blue sapphires, pink sapphires, pink spinels, garnets, emeralds, diamond octahedra, and pearls. Several types of imitations for green and pink gemstones and diamonds were present as well. The forms of the stones also reflected the transition in fashioning occurring as the Late Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance.
Links to previous Lecture Programmes