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
firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
The format for the Autumn lectures will be confirmed as soon as possible.
Colour in Victorian Jewellery
lecture postponed from 24 November 2020
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.
lecture will be online only
Crossing paths with the prehistoric craftsman: learning and experimenting with ancient jewellery of the Aegean region and its influence on me and my work
Akis Goumas is an award-winning Athenian jeweller, gemmologist and researcher in ancient goldsmithing techniques of the Aegean region. He is a member of a multidisciplinary group of archaeologists, archaeological scientists and conservators studying different categories of ancient metalwork, including prehistoric metal technologies of the Aegean region, working at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and the Cycladic Museum of Art, and Hellenistic goldsmithing techniques at the Benaki Museum of Athens. In this talk he will describe some of the investigations he has taken part in and also show how his own jewellery and designs have been greatly influenced by this research.
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.
Jewels at the Court of Henry VIII
Henry VIII’s posthumous inventory contained thousands of sumptuous jewels and precious stones and in some ways we know more about them than we do about his gold and silver plate because of their depiction in royal portraits. But the term ‘jewel’ did not only apply to items of adornment. The finest plate was often set with gems and two of the four surviving pieces of goldsmith’s work known to have belonged to the king – the clock salt in the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection and a mounted rock-crystal bowl in Munich – are exactly what would have been described at the time as ‘jewels’.
Jewellery and power in Iron Age Kazakhstan
During the 1st millennium BCE, the Saka-Scythians of East Kazakhstan built monumental burial mounds on the grassy expanse of the steppe. In these mounds they buried elite members of their society with thousands of gold adornments. From microscopic beads to weighty torcs, the largely nomadic Saka expressed wealth and power through adorning their bodies and those of their horses, who often died with them. Power and status, however, are determined by the living. This talk will draw on material from the ‘Gold of the Great Steppe’ exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum (opening September 2021) to explore the clues to Saka social, cultural, and economic life as expressed through their jewellery.
Jewels captured in perpetuity: the jewellery book of Anne of Bavaria.
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