Lost Bounty of Antique Jewels to Go on Display in London

Between 1640 and 1666, someone stashed hundreds of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewels beneath a cellar floor in London’s Cheapside neighborhood, but never returned to reclaim them.

The collection, known as the “Cheapside Hoard,” lay deep beneath the floorboards, undetected, until 1912, when a chance discovery led scholars to begin unraveling the story of its mysterious origins. This fall, jewel-lovers, historians, and curiosity-seekers will get a few tantalizing answers when the entire hoard goes on display for the first time, exhibited at the Museum of London.

“The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels” exhibit will open Oct. 11 and run through April 27, 2014. Described by Vogue UK’s jewelry editor Carol Woolton as “the most important thing that’s happened in jewelry, in London, for generations,” the exhibition comprises nearly 500 jewels, gems, and artifacts, including Byzantine cameos, jeweled perfume bottles, and a unique Colombian emerald watch.

Colombian emerald watch © Museum of London

 

A previously neglected oval intaglio featuring the heraldic badge of William Howard, the first and only Viscount Stafford (1612-1680), has helped scholars date the hoard, thereby bringing them closer to solving the mystery of who buried the treasure—and why.

Carnelian intaglio with Stafford heraldic badge © Museum of London
 

“Ever since the unexpected discovery in June 1912, the Cheapside Hoard has been swathed in mystery, rich in questions that had been left unanswered for too long,” said exhibition curator Hazel Forsyth in a statement. “The Stafford intaglio has been absolutely vital in shedding new light on the collection, providing crucial dating evidence for the deposition of the Hoard between 1640 and 1666, and making a specific link to an individual who had international connections and a penchant for collecting gems and antiquities.”

The exhibition is sponsored by Fabergé, Gemfields, and Coutts, and is supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Gold bow pendant set with rose-cut and step-cut foil-backed rubies and table-cut diamonds © Museum of London