Since September 2020, attendance at SJH lectures has only been possible online via zoom, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All lectures have been recorded, together with questions from the audience, and are available to members
here (members only).
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
We hope to return to Burlington House as soon as it is safe to do so.
We will continue to make lectures available online in the future, including those that take place at the Society of Antiquaries when we have returned there, and will be loading all past online lectures
Lectures available online
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.
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.
Chinese jade jewellery and ornaments from the Neolithic to the Present
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.
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.
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.
Mouza Al-Wardi, Marcia Dorr, Aude Mongiatti and Fahmida Suleman
Adornment, Identity and Empowerment: Female Silversmiths in Southern Oman
Throughout the Arabian Peninsula, silversmithing is almost universally identified as a male occupation, although a large proportion of the articles produced are for women. However, there is a relatively unknown, endangered tradition of female silversmithing in the Sultanate of Oman. In this talk, we will share some of our early research findings from an ongoing collaborative project supported by the British Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum and the National Museum of Oman on the last surviving female silversmiths of Dhofar, southern Oman.
Titanium the magical metal
In this talk, the jeweller Dr Lynne Bartlett describes her research into titanium, a metal that has been widely used in jewellery since the middle of the twentieth century, and which she uses in her own work. Titanium has been mainly appreciated for its colour potential, and recent decades have seen its increasing use as a lightweight metal for setting diamonds. The talk outlines the early history of its use, highlighting the different techniques employed, and present research into the behaviour of the surfaces of titanium before and after colouring, explaining why the effects achieved can be variable.
The ‘Tara’ brooch: the making of an early medieval masterpiece from Ireland
Dating to around AD 700, the 'Tara' brooch is the creation of a virtuoso. Working on a minute scale, its maker prized intricate and precise design for its own sake, and used so many different techniques that it can be regarded as a masterpiece in the true sense of the word, demonstrating his range of skills. When it was displayed in London in 1863, one of the Castellani brothers remarked that it had been ‘worth the journey from Italy to see it’. This talk, based in part on unpublished research, shows why Castellani was so impressed.