Updated: Mar 16
Our Ancients collection demonstrates how history is recorded in various material whether that consists of the preserved organic material transformed to stone over time, or the man-made coins from a fallen empire. We can’t wait to show you what we have crafted for you over the next few weeks. In putting this collection together, we have drawn on numerous sources and materials for our inspiration. The man-madematerials we have sourced for this collection have been Byzantine coins, mostly from the 11th and 12th centuries.
Coins have been incorporated into jewellery either for purely aesthetic purposes or as a part of “sympathetic magic” throughout history. The Metropolitan Museum in New York has a necklace which is predominantly comprised of Egyptian coins dating back to 225 AD, whilst the British Museum have various jewellery pieces spanning several centuries and cultures including 4th Century Roman Britain; a 7th Century Anglo Saxon necklace which contains various beads and coins as well as an inscribed coin which appears to be a love token from the 17th Century. The modern incorporation of ancient coins into modern jewellery pieces can be traced back to Bulgari the renowned jewellery designer who began creating earrings with ancient coins at their centre in the mid 1970s. He described these pieces as “gemme nummarie” or nummary gems.
The second type of material we are focusing on in this collection is fossils. The use of various fossils as well as semi-precious stones as aids for healing can be traced as far back asan Egyptian papyrus containing a charm which was to be spoken over a necklace containing lapis lazuli, jasper and malachite beads which were then to be placed on a thread and hung around a sick child’s neck. One of the largest group of fossils we use in this collection are ammonites. Sometimes referred to as a form of snake stone eluding to the myth that they were snakes that had been petrified by a magical event or miracle. These include legends such as St Hilda in Whitby and St Kenya in Keynsham. Other cultures have other myths surrounding these fossils such as in Hindu mythology where they are referred to as “Salagrama sila” and are regarded asavatars of Vishnu. There are common folklore beliefs that these fossils were useful for warding off or healing snake bites. It can be difficult to distinguish when looking back as to what was used for primarily protective or healing purposes and what was merely seen as decorative with a warning that they were ‘not to be worn as a jewel’. Indeed, it has been said that “jewellery worn for curative rather than primarily ornamental purposes ……. tread a perilous and blurred line between legitimate medicine and diabolic magic” (see below for full details)
Considering how some of these materials have been used throughout human history together with the properties they have traditionally been said to display hopefully explains why we were drawn to utilising them in our latest collection. For anyone interested in reading further into any the topics briefly touched on above please see the sources list below.
‘Not used to be worn as a jewel’ : the wearing of precious stones in early modern England – ornaments of medicine – published in geological society London 2016 by Tom Blaen
‘Men, methods and materials: exploring the historical connections between geology and medicine ‘ – Published Geological Society London 2017 by Christopher J Duffin
Earrings: From antiquity to the present – Daniela Mascetti and Amanda Triossi 1995
An Iguanodon Proper : the fascination of fossils – W. M . S Russell 1981
The Toadstone – a rather unlikely jewel – published in Jewellery History Today, issue 8 , Spring 2010 by C. Duffin
Serpent stones myth and medical application – published in Geology and Medicine – historical connections 2017 by Rachael Pymm
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_AF-1023- British Museum exhibit of a toadstone ring amulet
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/E_Oc1964-03-391 - British museum exhibit of a ammonite charm used for protection
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1860-1024-2-d - British Museum exhibit of Anglo-Saxon coin pendant
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/547949?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=coin+necklace&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=6 – Met Museum exhibit of coin pendant depicting Roman emperors
https://www.bulgari.com/en-gb/347707.html - Bulgari necklace with ancient coin