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.
I Can’t String a Sentence Together: Jewellery and Words/Words and Jewellery
Jonathan Boyd is a multi-award-winning artist and jeweller working in a variety of materials specialising in conceptual and narrative-led jewellery and objects. He is also the Head of Programme in Jewellery and Metal at the Royal College of Art. For over 10 years Jonathan has explored the two languages of words and jewellery through objects where meaning and form are inseparable. Reflecting these difficult, unusual and hyper-modern times, Jonathan will be presenting via zoom using image, video and virtual montage to best exploit the possibilities presented by a digital format.
Jack Ogden, presidential address
The Black Prince’s Ruby: Investigating the Legend
The 170 carat red spinel set in the Imperial State Crown in Britain’s Crown Jewels is known as the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’ and is one of Britain’s best-known gems. It has been popularly associated with Edward the Prince of Wales — the ‘Black Prince’— who lived in the 1300s. An oft-repeated legend links the gem back to its presentation to the Prince in Spain in 1367 and tells of how Henry V wore it on his crown at the famous Battle of Agincourt in 1415. But how much, if any, of the legend can be verified? And when was this legend first recorded? This talk looks back through renaissance and medieval sources to try to separate fact from fiction. It will question whether we can identify the gem among the confusingly large number of large spinels that reached royal treasuries in the later medieval times, and evaluate its supposed continuous history down through its various owners, including Pedro the Cruel in Spain and Elizabeth I in England.
23 March EGM and AGM followed by
Rui Galopim de Carvalho
A Preview of the Gemstones at the Portuguese Royal Treasury
After decades of being kept closed in a secret vault, the royal treasures of Portugal, including the crown jewels, personal jewels of the monarchs and other precious items, were properly cleaned by an expert conservation team and all the thousands of gemstones tested. In this talk, you’ll be offered a private gem-related sneak peak of what to expect in the forthcoming permanent exhibition at the new Museu do Tesouro Real - Palácio Nacional da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal.
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.
Gonçalo de Vasconclo e Sousa
TBA - An aspect of Portuguese jewellery
The late 14th-Century Royal Crown of Blanche of Lancaster
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.
Links to previous Lecture Programmes