All lectures from March - June 2020 were postponed due to the corona virus lockdown. From September 2020 - June 2021 lectures were resumed but were only available live online via zoom. 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 have now returned to Burlington House, but will continue to make lectures available online simultaneously, and load all past online lectures
Lectures available online
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.
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.
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.
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 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’.
Sculptural Minimalism & Fairtrade Gold — philosophy, provenance and process
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.
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.
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.
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.