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(2,382 words)

Author(s): David Humphrey
The development of jewellery in England between c. 450 and c. 1450 initially built on late Roman Empire practices. In the following centuries, down to the end of the 12th century, much of the production of jewellery was carried out by goldsmiths trained in English monastic workshops. During this period longstanding styles gave way to new ideas imported from the Byzantine world. They in turn were replaced in the late 13th century by elements of Gothic style and the influence of chivalry with its many nature-based references. The period saw not only changes or devel…


(1,158 words)

Author(s): David Humphrey
The terms rosary and paternoster are often used interchangeably to describe strings of beads employed from the late medieval period as counting aids in the repeated recitation of prayers. The term 'rosary' is more correctly applied from the late 15th century onwards when applied to strings of a standardized nature. The date at which strings of beads were first used in England to aid the counting of prayers remains unknown, but is generally thought to have coincided with the First Crusade (1095-99). William of Malmesbury ( c. 1080/1095- c. 1143) suggested an earlier date of a. 1040. Paternos…

Girdle: post-1100

(508 words)

Author(s): David Humphrey
A girdle was an essential item of costume for men and women. For both sexes the belt encircled the waist and hips, often with a buckle or clasp at one end, through which the other end passed and then hung down at the front towards, or below, the wearer's knees. Although such an arrangement was not always the case, they usually hung down further from the buckle for men than for women. Decoration of the leather's surface was achieved through stamping, engraving or cutting designs into the leather,…


(567 words)

Author(s): David Humphrey
Pearl is a hard material made of calcium carbonate. It is usually spherical in shape and is produced within the soft tissue of a shelled mollusc. The use of pearls in jewellery, and on ornaments, dates to the dawn of Western civilization. From the earliest times, the finest and most valuable examples of pearls were found in the waters of the Persian Gulf, and at the very southern tip of India. In the post-Roman period in England, pearls were included both in items of personal jewellery as well a…


(2,119 words)

Author(s): David Humphrey
For thousands of years gemstones have been used in jewellery for the qualities of their own beauty, and for the virtues they are considered to contain that influence aspects of human life. Such virtues include the power to affect personal fate and the battle with the forces of the Devil, and the pursuit of securing good health. In support of such objectives, and others, gemstones were used in ways disconnected from their inclusion in precious jewels: examples included elixirs made from gemstones…


(642 words)

Author(s): David Humphrey
Enamel is powdered glass fused to a metal. The basic flux consists of materials such as sand, soda, potash and lead with metal oxides, added to provide colour. Some of the precious objects made during the medieval period were decorated with enamel applied using one of a number of technical processes. The main techniques employed are known as cloisonné, champlevé, basse-taille, émail en ronde bosse and plique-à-jour enamelling . The cloisonné technique is an adaptation of the use of metal wires in setting semi-precious stones. As applied to the use of enamel, wires…


(582 words)

Author(s): David Humphrey
Throughout the period, the wearing, or not, of a necklace was linked to current fashions in garments: when necklines on items, such as dresses or tunics, were fitted up to the neck, necklaces were rarely worn. When low-necked garments were in fashion, a necklace was worn to complement the lower neckline. Necklaces were worn by both sexes, with individual styles for each. Many Anglo-Saxon necklaces were simple strings of amber, terracotta or glass beads. More luxurious types used gold beads interspersed with small pendants containing garnet inlay. As a jewe…