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In this weeks issue of Benchpeg there is a link to an article about a hoard of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery that was found in a cellar in London in the early 19th Century.

From what I can gather the story is that someone hid the hoard in the cellar of a London house. The house was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but the cellar remained untouched. Fast forward to the 19th Century and some workmen broke through the floor of the cellar and found the stash. The jewellery was distributed amongst the workmen who went for a pint after work. A renowned broker ‘Stoney Jack’ went around each of the workmen and brought the pieces from them. In subsequent years the pieces were brought by various museums and collectors. The collection is now going to be on display at the Museum of London in the Autumn as a complete collection. Better written accounts can be found in The Guardian and The Independent.

Birmingham City University have been analysing the jewellery to try to surmise how some of the pieces were originally made, as they seemed to be quite complex considering the technology that would have been around at the time of manufacture. They are quoted as saying that they fear that some of the techniques or technology may have been lost to us today.

I find this subject fascinating. In todays manufacturing world we have an abundance of technology and aides to making available to us, yet we find it difficult, if not sometimes impossible to create jewellery that was created in years gone by. The intrigue for me, began when a tutor mentioned an ancient civilisation called the Etruscans. The Etruscans existed in the 6th to 3rd Century BC and made the most exquisite gold jewellery, in particular they perfected the technique of granulation , they made the granulations so fine that they appeared in patterns that looked to be made out of gold dust. Jewellers have attempted to make granulations with the same assumed technology of the Etruscans and failed, so how did they do it? This formed the basis of my dissertation and I have to admit I did get a tiny bit obsessed.

The answer is lost in history somewhere as techniques that are not passed down to the next generation often are. I wonder if in 200 or 2000 years time people will be discussing the everyday things that we do with such awe and admiration, if any of the techniques or things we do will be lost to them? It’s an intriguing question isn’t it?