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The Barbor Jewel

  • Object:

    Pendant

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1615-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled gold, set with an onyx cameo, rubies and diamonds, and hung with pearls

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss M. Blencowe

  • Museum number:

    889-1894

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91 to 93, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 7, shelf B, box 5

According to a family tradition, this jewel was made for William Barbor (died 1586). He was a Protestant.The tradition, apparently first recorded in 1724, says that he wanted to commemorate his escape from the stake thanks to the accession of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). However, the style of the enamelling provides a date for the setting of about 1615-1625.

The tradition that this jewel was commissioned by William Barbor (1540-86) to commemorate his escape from being burnt at the stake as a heretic during the reign of Queen Mary was recorded by Gabriel Barbor in 1724. William Barbor may have owned the cameo of Elizabeth I, but the current setting dates from about 1615-25, suggesting that William’s family regarded the essential element in the jewel as the cameo, while the setting was changed to keep the jewel in fashion. Gabriel Barbor believed that William had laid down that the jewel was to descend to his eldest son, but only if he had a daughter and named her Elizabeth: ‘this is the account as it has been handed down from father to son, and hitherto there has always been an Elizabeth in the family’. The will of John Barbor in 1757 stated that the jewel should pass to his brother John, but, if he had no children, to his brother Richard. Richard’s daughter, Elizabeth, who had married Henry Prescott Blencowe in 1774 (information kindly provided by Sarah Jane Barber), inherited the jewel on her father’s death.

Physical description

Pendant of enamelled gold set with an onyx cameo of Queen Elizabeth I and with table-cut rubies and diamonds; hung with a cluster of pearls. An oak tree is enamelled on the back plate.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

ca. 1615-1625 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Enamelled gold, set with an onyx cameo, rubies and diamonds, and hung with pearls

Dimensions

Height: 60 mm, Width: 31 mm, Depth: 10 mm

Object history note

According to a family tradition, apparently first recorded in 1724, the jewel was made for William Barbor (died 1586), to commemorate his delivery from the stake by the death of Queen Mary in 1558. However the pea-pod style ornament used in the enamelling indicates a date for the setting of about 1615-25.

Descriptive line

Pendant of enamelled gold set with an onyx cameo of Queen Elizabeth I and with table-cut rubies and diamonds; hung with a cluster of pearls. An oak tree is enamelled on the back plate. England, cameo about 1575-85,
mount about 1615–25.

Labels and date

Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars label text:

The Barbor Jewel with cameo of Elizabeth I
Cameo 1575–85; setting about 1615–25

Regarded as a heretic during the reign of Mary I, William Barbor narrowly escaped being burnt at the stake. The cameo of Elizabeth I may commemorate
his release on her accession. The later enamelled setting, in the ‘pea-pod’ style, dates from the reign of James I.

England
Gold, enamel, set with an onyx cameo, table-cut rubies and diamonds,
and hung with pearls
Given by Miss M. Blencowe
V&A 889-1894 []

Production Note

Date of setting. Cameo: 1575-85.

Materials

Gold; Ruby; Diamond; Onyx; Pearl

Techniques

Enamelled

Subjects depicted

Monarchy; Crowns (headdresses); Tree, Oak

Categories

ELISE; Images Online; Jewellery; Royalty; Sculpture; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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