Friday, September 13, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Heneage Jewel, c. 1595

The Heneage Jewel
Circa 1595
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Known both as the Heneage Jewel and "The Armada Jewel,"  this glorious locket of enameled gold is set with table-cut diamonds and Burmese rubies.  The obverse displays a bust of gold under rock crystal depicting Elizabeth I.  This depiction is apparently an early version of the Garter Badge, which, alone dates to about 1585.

The inside of the locket is set with a miniature of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) painted by Nicholas Hilliard.

Meanwhile, the hinged reverse of the locket is enameled with the Ark of the English Church on a storm-chopped sea--representing the Protestant church steered by Elizabeth through religious turmoil. The interior of the reverse is enameled with a Tudor rose encircled by leaves.

Tradition tells us that the  jewel was given by the queen to Sir Thomas Heneage, a Privy Counsellor and Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household.  The important jewel remained in the possession of the Heneage family until 1902. 

Often, the jewel is referred to as the "Armada Jewel," though it was probably made in about 1595, some seven years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. 

The jewel is inscribed in Latin:

(Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland)

(peaceful through the fierce waves) 

'Hei mihi quod tanto virtus perfusa decore non habet eternos inviolata dies' 
(Alas, that so much virtue suffused with beauty should not last for ever inviolate)

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