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Medieval and Post-Medieval Jewellery

In the Late Medieval (1250-1486) period the type of jewellery worn by an individual very much reflected their status. Royalty and nobility wore gold, silver and gemstones, whilst lower ranks wore base metals like copper or pewter. Laws were even passed which limited the amounts of gold, silver and precious gemstones that the lower classes could wear.

A variety of techniques including enamelling, plating, gilding, soldering, inlay and casting were all utilised to add decoration to metals (see images: Group 1 - silver-gilt dress-hook - CHCDM:2014.28 and Group 2 - silver-gilt fastener - CHCDM:2016.11).

Fashion was a decisive factor that influenced the use of jewellery during the Late Medieval period. Brooches had both a practical and aesthetic function (see image: Group 3 - gold brooch - CHCDM:2008.23). Other jewellery types included belt buckles of precious metals and gold (see image: Group 4 - strap end - 2008.24) and a great variety of silver and gold rings (see image: Group 5 - silver-gilt finger ring - CHCDM:2009.6).

The materials were carefully selected, as each gemstone was seen in light of its special properties and its amuletic value. It was thought that many stones had a certain protective importance, such as the sapphire that was often used in the rings of bishops. The sapphire was said to make its bearer loved by God and man as well as protecting them from injuries, fraud and terror (see image: Group 6 - gold finger-ring - CHCDM:2008.21). In addition to the materials themselves, there was great faith in the protective quality of the inscriptions, particularly the religious ones.

The Post Medieval period (1486-1901) saw an abundance of finger rings. The intaglios, an incised or engraved design, were common as the nobility, clergy, merchants, lawyers and individuals, all with business to transact needed their own stamps (see image: Group 7 - silver-gilt ring - CHCDM:2010.43.1).

During the Renaissance, jewellery often reflected the period's appetite for extravagance. Dramatic religious pieces were very common, and reflected the importance of religion in everyday life. Inscriptions such as memento mori, with its unflinching display of the symbols of death and its underlying message "Remember that you must die" (see image: Group 8- gold ring - CHCDM:2016.8), encouraged the virtuous life, reminding the users that they would have to account for their sins on the Day of Judgment.

Cover Photo Medieval Jewellery Exhibition Cover Photo
Group 1 - Silver-gilt dress hook - CHCDM:2014.28 A silver-gilt dress-hook with trifoliate back-plate and cusped outline. CHCDM:2014.28
Group 2 - Silver-gilt fastener - CHCDM:2016.11 A hooked silver-gilt clothes fastener dating to the Early Post Medieval period - The body consists of three hollow hemispheres with decoration. CHCDM:2016.11
Group 3 - Gold brooch - CHCDM:2008.23 A gold brooch dating to the 13th century. It may have been used to fasten a piece of clothing at the neck and was probably found on both male and female costume. CHCDM:2008.23
Group 4 - Strap end - CHCDM:2008.24 A silver-gilt Medieval strap-end constructed in several parts, the main section terminating in an elaborate trefoil with decorative elements, in the centre of the strap end is the letter ‘R’. It has been dated to the late 14th century. CHCDM:2008.24
Group 5 - Silver-gilt finger ring - CHCDM:2009.6 A Medieval silver-gilt, with a double-faced bezel and decorated hoop. Each facet is engraved with the image of a saint. It has been dated from the late 15th century. CHCDM:2009.6
Group 6 - Gold finger-ring - CHCDM:2008.21 A Medieval gold finger-ring, with an irregularly-shaped biconical bezel, set with a sapphire, probably dates to the 13th century. CHCDM:2008.21
Group 7 - Silver-gilt ring - CHCDM:2010.43.1 A 15th century Medieval silver-gilt signet with a circular bezel containing the image of a bird plucking a flower with the inscription ‘I FFYNCHR’. This is likely to denote a personal name, J Fincher, the bird, acting as a rebus. CHCDM:2010.43.1
Group 8 - Gold ring - CHCDM:2016.8 Post-Medieval gold posy ring inscribed inside ‘KEPE FAITH TILL DEATH’, probably from the 16th century. CHCDM:2016.8
Thumbnail image of Cover Photo
Thumbnail image of Group 1 - Silver-gilt dress hook - CHCDM:2014.28
Thumbnail image of Group 2 - Silver-gilt fastener - CHCDM:2016.11
Thumbnail image of Group 3 - Gold brooch - CHCDM:2008.23
Thumbnail image of Group 4 - Strap end - CHCDM:2008.24
Thumbnail image of Group 5 - Silver-gilt finger ring - CHCDM:2009.6
Thumbnail image of Group 6 - Gold finger-ring - CHCDM:2008.21
Thumbnail image of Group 7 - Silver-gilt ring - CHCDM:2010.43.1
Thumbnail image of Group 8 - Gold ring - CHCDM:2016.8
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Image captions

Group 1 - Silver-gilt Dress-hook - CHCDM:2014.28

A silver-gilt dress-hook with trifoliate back-plate and cusped outline.

Group 2 - Silver-gilt Fastener - CHCDM:2016.11

A hooked silver-gilt clothes fastener dating to the Early Post Medieval period - The body consists of three hollow hemispheres with decoration.

Group 3 - Gold Brooch - CHCDM:2008.23

A gold brooch dating to the 13th century. It may have been used to fasten a piece of clothing at the neck and was probably found on both male and female costume.

Group 4 - Strap End - CHCDM:2008.24

A silver-gilt Medieval strap-end constructed in several parts, the main section terminating in an elaborate trefoil with decorative elements, in the centre of the strap end is the letter 'R'. It has been dated to the late 14th century.

Group 5 - Silver-gilt Finger Ring - CHCDM:2009.6

A Medieval silver-gilt, with a double-faced bezel and decorated hoop. Each facet is engraved with the image of a saint. It has been dated from the late 15th century.

Group 6 - Gold Finger-ring - CHCDM:2008.21

A Medieval gold finger-ring, with an irregularly-shaped biconical bezel, set with a sapphire, probably dates to the 13th century.

Group 7 - Silver-gilt Ring - CHCDM:2010.43.1

A Medieval silver-gilt signet with a circular bezel containing the image of a bird plucking a flower with the inscription 'I FFYNCHR'. This is likely to denote a personal name, J Fincher, the bird, acting as a rebus, an image which represents a word. It has been dated from the late 15th century.

Group 8 - Gold Ring - CHCDM:2016.8

Post-Medieval gold posy ring inscribed inside 'KEPE FAITH TILL DEATH', probably from the 16th century.