Lecture Programme 2022
online lecture only
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’.
AGM followed by
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.
Setting the record straight
This talk will cover changing ways in which gemstones were set in jewellery from the earliest times until the end of the Renaissance. These changes reflected aesthetic preferences, of course, but more particularly, advances in gem cutting technology. There was also fluctuating access to different gem types as trading patterns changed. When seen in this light, the history of gem-setting can be understood as a key part of jewellery and gem history, underlining that jewellery history must be seen holistically, a happy blend of art and technology.
Creative Clasps? The story of prehistoric brooches in Britain
Brooches first appear in Britain almost 2,500 years ago in the Iron Age. Their design, and the materials from which they are made, highlight oscillating relationships across the Channel and further afield. Theirs is a story of bronze, iron, glass and coral; a story of creativity and connections. In this presentation I will focus upon the craft of the brooches and the contexts in which they are found. By examining the detail of these small artefacts, we can explore the relationships between makers, wearers, the natural world and the archaeological story of pre-Roman Britain.
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.
Maria Filomena Guerra
Fresh scientific insights in ancient Egyptian gold technology
This lecture on ancient Egyptian jewellery celebrates the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb.
It will NOT be available afterwards on the SJH website for copyright reasons.
This presentation aims to shed new light on gold jewellery from ancient Egypt by considering the results obtained by various scientific techniques which provide fresh insights into its production. The talk will discuss what science can tell us about the technology of Egyptian jewellery dated to end of the Second Intermediate Period – early 18th Dynasty. The results presented are from the group of jewellery excavated at Qurna by Flinders Petrie, the gold armband from the burial of Kamose found by A. Mariette, several pieces bearing the name of Ahhotep or related to Nubkheperra Intef, and others from excavations at Qau by G. Brunton, and at Abydos by J. Garstang. Workshop practices in ancient Egypt will also be discussed.
New research on beads
Two speakers will each present a 30-minute paper about recent research - see following details.
Gold Saka microbeads: Early Iron Age luxury in the Great Steppe
Iron Age Saka microbeads became a well-deserved star of the “Gold of the Great Steppe” exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) last year, fuelling debate among members of the public and specialists about their manufacturing technologies. Being truly micro - the diameter of some do not exceed 1 mm - they seemed to play a significant role in Saka society, and were manufactured in their thousands. Considering the amazing variety of their shapes, meticulous manufacturing technologies and their massive production at the Iron Age steppe amazingly little is known about them outside of Kazakhstan. Through my presentation, I will show you the beauty of Saka microbeads, and explore their production and use.
Not Just Jewellery: Glass bead technology, economy, and artistic expression in Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Glass beads are luxury objects that commanded great importance in early West African societies. Archaeological excavations at Igbo Olokun, Ile-Ife, SW Nigeria, yielded several thousand glass beads from a context dated to the 11th -15th centuries. The association of the glass beads with production waste suggests production at the site. The assemblage provides a new insight on the complete sequence of glass bead making, from glass making to bead making, in medieval West Africa. This talk will discuss the stages of production and the technology of the glass. Mass-production of glass beads, for the first time, introduced West African-made glass beads into the regional and long-distance economy. The proliferation of glass beads in early Ile-Ife inspired a bead culture that was expressed in the arts and culture of the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria.
Minakari: Where Flowers Bloom. The History & Art of Enamelling in India
Online lecture only. This lecture will not be available on the website afterwards
Enamelling, in the context of jewellery, is a method of decorating the surface of gold, silver and even copper with powdered glass that is then fired, so that it melts and adheres to the metal. This art entered India from Europe in the sixteenth century, as a consequence of the establishment of direct contact with the Europeans, coterminous with the arrival of the Portuguese, and the conquest of Goa in 1510. However, it was neither a single one-time entry, nor was it from a single point of origin. From Spain and Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands, Italy, Paris and London, the enamel road led to centres in the Deccan and to ateliers in North India. The Indian craftsman then married technique and colour in his own inimitable style and interpreted the art form in distinctive idioms.
Drawing upon surviving examples, the transfer of the art of enamelling across cultural boundaries and its reinterpretation in the local idiom, is the focus of this talk.
Links to previous Lecture Programmes