Friday, December 9, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Barbor Jewel, 1615-1625

The Victoria & Albert Museum

A pendant of enameled gold is set with an onyx cameo of Queen Elizabeth I and with table-cut rubies and diamonds. It is hung with a cluster of pearls. On the reverse, an oak tree has been enameled. This is known as The Barbor Jewel.

According to Barbor family tradition, first recorded in 1724, this jewel was made for William Barbor (died 1586)--a Protestant. The family tradition states that William Barbor wanted to commemorate his escape from the stake (where Protestants were put to death by the Catholic rulers) thanks to the accession of Elizabeth I (1558-1603).

As with most family traditions, this one is probably apocryphal. The style of the enameling, setting and the Queen’s costume indicates a later creation date, from about 1615-1625. Regardless, it’s an important historical ornament, and as beautiful as the day it was made.

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