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A trove of jewels of mysterious origin has gone on display at the Museum of London in a show that serves as a window into the tastes, aesthetics and international trading patterns of the Elizabethan and Early Stuart period. “The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels” showcases some 500 pieces of mostly precious gems from the late 16th and early 17th centuries that were discovered by accident in 1912 when workmen renovating the crumbling buildings of Cheapside, in the City of London, began digging in the cellars.
Mixed in with the dirt, mud, rubble and tiny dried fish bones were gems including a salamander brooch set with Colombian emeralds and table-cut Indian diamonds; a rare agate cameo of Elizabeth I, and a one-of-a-kind watch set in a hexagonal emerald crystal.
Curator Hazel Forsyth is still trying to track down the identity of the jeweler who hid the hoard — and the reason why he did so. “It’s entirely possible that other bits of the hoard are still out there — the Victorian workmen likely hung on to some of it. And we don’t know how much jewelry there was to start with,” said Forsyth. “There are still so many unanswered questions.” — S.C.
“The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels”
Until April 27
Museum of London
150 London Wall