A mystery solved! The Cheapside Hoard

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Oxgirl
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This hoard of incredible 17th century jewels wasn’t a detecting find but is worth sharing anyway. The items are mind blowingly beautiful :Star: You may have already seen this hoard but I bet you didn’t know who it belonged to originally and why it was there. At last the mystery has been solved!



Background

For almost 300 years a buried treasure lay undisturbed below one of London's busiest streets. No one knew it was there until workmen started to demolish a timber-framed building in Cheapside near St Paul's Cathedral, in June 1912. The property had stood on the site since the 17th century, but the cellars were older and lined with brick.

On 18 June 1912 workmen started to excavate the cellars with their picks, and while they were breaking up the floor, they noticed something glinting in the soil below. Quickly scraping the chalky soil aside, they realized that they had struck the remains of an old wooden casket, and to their immense delight a tangled heap of jewellery, gems and other precious objects came tumbling forth. They had uncovered what is now known and celebrated as The Cheapside Hoard the greatest cache of Elizabethan and early Stuart jewellery in the world and one of the most remarkable and spectacular finds ever recovered from British soil.
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Full details and photos can be found here

But who owned the jewels?

For a long time researchers have tried to work out who hid the hoard and, at last, Rosemary Weinstein has got to the bottom of it. This is sourced from the latest Finds Research Group newsletter (Autumn 21)

‘It was very satisfying to me to complete work started in the 1980s on the Cheapside Hoard, the most important cache of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery ever recovered from British soil. A few of the later jewels date to the 1630s and it is believed the Hoard was buried about the time of the Civil War. Recent research supports that view. Today the site is part of One New Change, previously known, from 1916, as Wakefield House (30-32 Cheapside).
The challenge was to identify all the goldsmiths living on that site in the early 17th century when the Hoard was hidden under a cellar floor and 16ft (4.9 metres) below present-day street level. The answer lay in the Goldsmiths Company leases, a Company estate survey of 1692, and its accompanying rental together with the relevant Court Minutes. The names of leaseholders and tenants living in this part of Goldsmiths' Row revealed a mystery jeweller working for the Court, amongst several retailing goldsmiths. A royalist, he left London in 1642 to join the Court in Oxford where he was made Royal Jeweller and working jeweller to Charles I and his son Prince Charles.
This allegiance caused him to be declared a Delinquent by Parliament, and all his property was sequestered (seized), this included his shop and workshop in Cheapside. The work for the Court was bespoke diamond jewellery whilst the shop stock would have offered a wider range for a variety of customers. The Cheapside Hoard (presumably the shop stock) was buried by the family or an employee before the bailiffs arrived. The jeweller was never able to recover the property, despite his vigorous attempts to do so.
Imprisoned in the Wood Street Compter after the fall of the Oxford garrison in 1646, and prohibited from re-entering the City of London on his release, he was rewarded at the Restoration with his re-appointment as Royal Jeweller by Charles II. His bold attempt to reclaim his lease was rebuffed by the Goldsmiths Company and he moved to Axe Yard Westminster. Six years later Cheapside lay smouldering in ruins, burnt in the Great Fire. Three months later he was dead.
As to the jewels themselves, the Hoard is important for its rarely surviving ' middle class' jewellery which is further commented upon by a contemporary gem merchant who explained that only the wealthy could afford large faceted stones, the less well-off decorated their jewellery with small stones, as shown by many of the delicate chains.
Until the Civil War, the City of London was still home to wealthy gentry and aristocrats, as well as merchants, who would have bought the more outstanding pieces. Something wealthy women would have sought was the single-strand pearl choker made fashionable by Queen Henrietta Maria from 1625 and seen in many of Van Dyke's portraits. Its absence provides something of a dating guide for the Hoard.
Something else previously unrecorded is the pestles and mortars for enamelling work in the form of the agate bowls and knife handles, as identified by designer goldsmith, Peter Page. Useful and rarely surviving tools of a working goldsmith.
A question mark remains over the gold used, which at 19.2ct is far below the 22ct standard of the day, as revealed by the Assay Office in 2013... Were the pieces going to be refurbished? Were they the work of Stranger jewellers working to a different standard? Or did jewellers not in fact keep to the strict standards of the Goldsmiths Company?........
Yes I really don’t like Roman coins, I’m not joking
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Easylife
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Very interesting. :thumbsup:
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Kenleyboy
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Enjoyable read , thanks for that :thumbsup:
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figgis
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Fascinating story :thumbsup:

Just wondering how there's so much information on a "mystery jeweller" but not his name. Or is it just me?

It's me, isn't it? Dozy after a long, cold week and thick as a whale omelette in any case :lol:
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Oxgirl
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figgis wrote: Fri Nov 05, 2021 7:31 pm Fascinating story :thumbsup:

Just wondering how there's so much information on a "mystery jeweller" but not his name. Or is it just me?

It's me, isn't it? Dozy after a long, cold week and thick as a whale omelette in any case :lol:
Blooming heck it doesn’t does it :shock: How did I miss that!
Yes I really don’t like Roman coins, I’m not joking
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