Jewellery Hoards

Jewellery Hoards

Written by Sarah Dilley on 17 October 2013

After seeing a documentary on an amazing ring that was found as part of the Thame hoard, I become interested in finding out further information. This essay is going to discuss the rings that were found in this hoard.

The Thame Hoard is made up of five medieval gold rings and ten silver groats believed to be from 1351 – 1457. It was found on the edge of the River Thame in 1940, by a man walking his dog by the river bank. The dog found something within the soil, began to dig, this drew the man attention to that particular spot, where he found many beautiful items.

In medieval England clothing and jewellery became an important means of expressing wealth and status. The degree of ornamentation, and quality of materials used, set the upper classes apart from the poorer citizens. Gold rings in particular were considered prestigious items of decoration and by the middle of the fourteenth century a decree had been introduced making it legal only for the upper classes to wear such symbols of status.

The first ring is of a fourteenth century type, with a turquoise stone. Stones of different types were generally believed in those times to have magical qualities, as some believe today. This is the original purpose of placing stones in rings, where they would be close to the skin. The second ring is much larger, with a large 'toad-stone', which was said to bring victory over a man's enemies. The third ring has no stone, and is a gold hoop with the words 'tout pour vous' in black letters. These three rings are though to date back to the early 15th century. The fourth ring has a very strong resemblance to one worn by William Wytlesey, Bishop of Rochester and Worcester, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1368. It too has a peridot stone, which is thought to bestow good fortune.

The fifth and final ring is the most amazing in my opinion, and the most obviously ecclesiastical. It has a one inch long ornate box, with an intricate opening mechanism, which served as a reliquary, in which a religious relic could be placed. The lid of the box is decorated with a cross with a double traverse, that is, two cross members. This cross is cut from a single piece of amethyst! Double traverse crosses, and indeed cross-reliquaries with them, show a Byzantine influence, and became popular in the centuries following the Crusades.