Buried Treasure: GIA Team Documents Cheapside Hoard


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This enameled gold hat ornament in the form of a salamander is one of the Cheapside Hoard’s most iconic pieces. The enameling on the front shows an open mouth with tiny black flecks resembling teeth. The pin is decorated with cabochon emeralds from Colombia, and the tail contains table-cut diamonds. Courtesy of the Museum of London; photo by Robert Weldon/GIA.
GIA photographer Robert Weldon and videographer Kevin Schumacher traveled to the Museum of London to learn about the Cheapside Hoard, an extraordinary treasure that had been buried under a London tenement house for centuries.  The duo spent 10 hours interviewing, photographing and filming museum staff about the collection before it went on exhibit in October 2013.
 
The significance of this find is summed up best by Hazel Forsyth, the Museum of London’s senior curator of medieval and post-medieval collections, who has devoted her life to uncovering the mystery of the Cheapside Hoard:
 
“This collection is unique in the world. It is the largest hoard of its kind, dating from the very late
16th to the early 17th century. Part of the reason why it’s so important is that jewelry tends to be broken up, refashioned, reworked, and so therefore doesn’t survive. Because this was buried and lay undisturbed for the better part of 300 years, it survived in the condition that it has. And it covers a huge spectrum of jewelry designs and types, but also gem material from many parts of the world, which really underlines London’s role in the international gem and jewelry trade in this period.”
 
Weldon and Cathy Jonathan, a research librarian for GIA, share the history of the Cheapside Hoard in the Fall 2013 issue of Gems & Gemology.