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Jewellery case
  • Jewellery case
    Edlin, Martha, born 1660 - died 1725
  • Enlarge image

Jewellery case

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1673 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Edlin, Martha, born 1660 - died 1725 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, covered with embroidered silk satin with coloured silks, metal purl and glass beads, padded, lined with silk and paper, parchment, silver braid

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Sir Frederick Richmond, Bt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 6

Object Type
This jewellery case is decorated with beadwork, a popular embroidery technique in the 17th century, in which tiny glass beads were threaded in sequence and sewn into place. The padded central panel lifts open to show a compartment for jewellery, lined with pink taffeta. The quality of glass beads and other material, and the involvement of a cabinet-maker in making the beadwork up into such a box, would mean that it could only be made within a household which could afford such outlay. Being such an intricate and relatively precious thing, the case's owners (Martha and her successors) would have handled it very gently; thus it remains in good condition today.

Martha Edlin (1660-1725) worked a series of embroideries during her childhood, including this jewellery case, which were cherished by her descendants and passed down through the female line in her family for over 300 years. We know little about her life, except that she married a man called Richard Richmond and appears to have been a prosperous widow living in Pinner in Greater London at the time she drew up her will, with daughters and grandchildren.

Materials & Making
Following the usual development of needlework skills in a young educated girl in the mid-17th century, Martha Edlin embroidered a sampler in coloured silks at the age of eight, and a more complicated piece in whitework and cutwork at nine. By 1671, her eleventh year, she had embroidered the panels of an elaborate casket, and two years later this beadwork jewellery case. The needlework skills she demonstrated in these pieces would be important attributes in her adulthood, in the management of her household and the making, mending and decoration of her own and her family's clothes.

Physical description

Wooden jewellery case covered with embroidered silk with coloured silks, metal purl and glass beads. Takes the form of a recessed compartment with a padded hinged lid with a tiny lifting ring, and a wide flat surrounding frame, and it stands on four feet. The inside of the case is lined with pink silk and fitted out with slots for jewellery along one side. The outside top surface is covered with white silk satin embroidered with coloured silks and glass beads.

On the lid, surrounded by an oval wreath formed by silk-wrapped leaves of parchment, is a cockatrice in a tree, with flowers around, and worked in glass beads. Outside the wreath are flowers and a leopard worked in silks in tent and rococo stitches, with the name 'Martha Edlin' above and the date '1673' below. On the frame surrounding the lid are birds and flowering plants worked in beads.

The corners of the frame rest on four round wooden feet. The underside is lined with marbled paper. The edges and seams are covered with silver braid.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1673 (made)


Edlin, Martha, born 1660 - died 1725 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Wood, covered with embroidered silk satin with coloured silks, metal purl and glass beads, padded, lined with silk and paper, parchment, silver braid

Marks and inscriptions

Martha Edlin and 1673
Name and date embroidered in silks on the lid


Height: 8.9 cm, Width: 36.8 cm, Depth: 31.8 cm

Object history note

This became separated from the other Martha Edlin embroideries (which stayed in her family's possession until their acquisition by the Museum) at an unknown date, probably in the 19th century. Bought by Sir Frederick Richmond at auction in 1927.

Descriptive line

Wooden jewellery case covered with embroidered silk with coloured silks, metal purl and glass beads, made by Martha Edlin, England, dated 1673

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

King, Donald, ed. British Textile Design in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Tokyo, 1980. Volume I, colour plate 70.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This exquisite case is decorated with thousands of coloured glass beads, sewn into place. Martha Edlin completed it when she was thirteen. The design on the lid is of a cockatrice, a fantastical bird-beast. The silk-lined case may have held jewellery and other precious objects. [27/03/2003]



Subjects depicted



Embroidery; British Galleries; Jewellery; Woodwork; Textiles; Accessories


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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