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Jewel casket - Queen Mary's Jewel Casket
  • Queen Mary's Jewel Casket
    Bickford family, workshop of
  • Enlarge image

Queen Mary's Jewel Casket

  • Object:

    Jewel casket

  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1688-ca.1694 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bickford family, workshop of (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel, pierced and engraved, covered with velvet, and overlaid with gilt-brass studs and blued steel

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 54a, case 2

Object Type
This strong-box was used to carry jewellery and valuables when travelling, hence the handles at each end. Its very ornate decoration also meant that it could be used as an item of furniture when fitted with a stand. It combines very fine ornament with sophisticated security.

By tradition this jewel casket belonged to Queen Mary (1662-1695) and was made to hold the dowry paid on her marriage to William of Orange (1650-1702), later William III, in 1677. Their crowned cipher appears on the lock plate. On the lid is a defaced wax seal that originally bore the arms of England as used by the Hanoverian dynasty. In the 18th century this casket belonged to Sophia Dorothea, the sister of George II (reigned 1727-1760) and wife of Frederick William, King of Prussia. He took it to Berlin, where it was purchased by the V&A in 1937.

The Maker
Although the jewel casket is not signed anywhere, the openwork decoration is blued steel and the chiselled and engraved brass ornament are very close to the locks made by the Royal locksmiths Walter and Charles Bickford. The Bickfords supplied locks to the English royal palaces and also made strong-boxes. There is a signed lock from their workshop in the V&A. Another, smaller version of this jewel casket has been recorded.

Physical description

Casket, steel, covered with velvet, overlaid with gilt-brass studs and openwork quatrefoils of blued steel, 24.5 x 47.5 x 32 cm. Elaborate jewel casket, with a complicated locking system of four bolts, openwork ornament in blued steel, and finely engraved gilt-brass.

Place of Origin

England (probably, made)


ca. 1688-ca.1694 (made)


Bickford family, workshop of (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Steel, pierced and engraved, covered with velvet, and overlaid with gilt-brass studs and blued steel


Height: 24.5 cm closed, Width: 47.5 cm, Depth: 32 cm

Object history note

Probably made in England by Walter or Charles Bickford, Royal Locksmiths

Descriptive line

Queen Mary's Jewel Casket, steel covered with velvet, probably made by the Bickford family, royal locksmiths, England, ca. 1688-94

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

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This casket for jewels is both practical and impressive. It is made of steel and fitted with handles and sophisticated locks for travelling. The decoration, using red velvet and pierced metalwork, is particularly rich and includes the cipher of William and Mary. It is thought to have contained Mary's dowry on her marriage to William III in 1677. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Openwork; Quatrefoils


Metalwork; Containers; Royalty


Metalwork Collection

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