History Podcasts

What techniques were used to make rings in medieval times?

What techniques were used to make rings in medieval times?

There is a lot of information on the internet regarding the process by which rings are made today using modern tools. What techniques were used before the 17th century to do it?


By using soldering techniques to join the ends of the ring into one complete loop.

There is evidence that soldering was employed as early as 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Soldering and brazing are thought to have originated very early in the history of metal-working, probably before 4000 BC. Sumerian swords from c. 3000 BC were assembled using hard soldering.

Soldering was historically used to make jewelry items, cooking ware and tools, as well as other uses such as in assembling stained glass.

So, the same techniques used to create stained glass, metal drinking/storage/votive vessels, etc., just smaller and more intricate.

For solid gold rings, an impure form of gold was used as a filler because it melts at a lower temperature than pure gold.

Medieval jewelry techniques

The higher the impurity of gold, the more quickly it will melt, and as such the impure gold would melt before the pure and could then be used to attach two or more pieces of purer gold


Making the armor. How they did it in the Middle Ages?

There’s no so much information about specific technologies of plate armor craftsmanship. But still we have different sources of that time such as Illuminated manuscripts, medieval illustrations where we can see a craftsman doing his work, descriptions of specific forging tools .

According to those historical sources there was a structure in work organization of blacksmiths and other forge workers. Each of them was engaged in certain part of armor manufacturing.

There’s one very interesting manuscript: a list of German blacksmiths who worked in Greenwich in XVI century. We can read there that different craftsmen did different work: some of them was forging out the steel plates forming the shape of armors, polishers did only finishing work of polishing, locksmiths did buckles and loops installing them on armors. Milanese blacksmiths, who was well known worldwide because of their milanese armor, in XV century had even more dipper division of work on a specialty. One craftsman was making only one or few armor parts which supposed to become a completed armor. Moreover many workshops had its own specialists of engraving, incrustation and gilding.

Until XVII century steel plates were made from metal blocks mostly. Blacksmiths used a special hummer which were moved by the help of power of water mechanism. Rare they were using hand hummer. According to one of historical sources, approximately in 1500 year in Germany craftsmen were using a special metal roller. At least this method of steel sheets making became really popular all over the Europe.

Steel sheets had to be cut according to patterns of armor parts: steel legs, steel arms, spaulders, greaves, sabatons,cuirass, helmets. Then blacksmith started to make a shape with the help of special steel form templates. They looked like many different anvils fixed vertically.

Cold forging was used to get a basic shape of armor. But some parts such as curved edges or “ribs” could be done only by heating and tempering.

After all steel elmets of future armor got shaped, forged and hardened – the next step is coming. The most difficult: gathering all parts thogether and adjusting them to fit.

This was very important process, since completed armor should have no gaps, should be comfortable to wear, movable, articulated. And what was really essential for the Middle Ages knight – his armors should protect him as much as it possible during the numerical medieval wars.

Adjustment of armor is completed, what next? Polishing, polishing, polishing. Polisher used not only his own hands for this but also a special mechanism. It was a kind of abrasive wheels moved by water.

In case if armor had to be decorated with engraving or incrustation – it went to the engraver’s hands. Jewellers also had a part if customer was really rich and noble.

The last few steps left before armor is battle ( or maybe parade?) ready. At the end of armor manufacturing the locksmith had to attached all buckles, loops and fastenings. Very often armor had a linen covering from the inner side. Completed armor was proudly “signed” by the mark of craftsman.

Nowadays modern blacksmiths use some techniques of medieval blacksmith craftsmanship. But producing the HMB and IMCF armor is not only about medieval tips but it’s also a knowledge of basic electric tools work.

Battle of the Nations or WMFC requires a hight top quality armor. Both historicity of armor and it’s protective qualities should supplement each other.

In our workshop you can choose tempered steel armor, titanium armor and padded stuff to start the medieval full contact fight.


A Brief History of Earrings

As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

A Reconstruction of Ötzi the Iceman Based on Artifacts Found with the Body

The history of earrings is an interesting one because they have been worn by both genders for millennia. The discovery of a 5,000-year old body in the Italian Alps has shown us that men wore earrings as early as the Bronze Age. Ötzi the Iceman, as Europe’s oldest mummy is now known, had a 7–11 mm diameter borehole in his earlobe.

A Canoptic Coffinette from the Tomb of Tutankhamun

Gilt objects from the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BC), including his death mask, also have earring boreholes.

The ascetic and sage Siddhārtha Gautama (c. 563–483 BCE) was born into wealth and power. As a sign of status, he wore heavy earrings which stretched his earlobes. At the time of his enlightenment however, the founder of Buddhism discarded all material possessions, including his jewelry. To celebrate his act of self-sacrifice, images of the Buddha are depicted with distended earlobes.

Friezes from Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid dynasty (550–330 BC), show warriors wearing earrings. And in a tradition that spans centuries, the earlobes of male and female babies in India are pierced shortly after they are born.

A Frieze from Persepolis Depicting a Soldier with an Earring

The ancients believed that sickness and evil spirits entered the body through its orifices. An individual could be protected if amulets were worn at these entryways, including the ears. Early doctors also believed that earrings—or the gemstones they contained—cured headaches and improved eyesight. Nevertheless, it is clear that the primary goal was to adorn the body.

Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) frequently criticized his fellow Romans for their conspicuous consumption. In his Naturalis Historia (Trans. Bostock and Riley, 1855), he complained bitterly of the profligate lifestyles of his compatriots. He disdains women’s newfound taste for pearl earrings:

Portrait Mosaic from Pompeii of a Woman with Earrings

“Our ladies quite glory in having these suspended from their fingers, or two or three of them dangling from their ears. For the purpose of ministering to these luxurious tastes, there are various names and wearisome refinements which have been devised by profuseness and prodigality for after inventing these ear-rings, they have given them the name of ‘crotalia,’ or castanet pendants, as though quite delighted even with the rattling of the pearls as they knock against each other and now, at the present day, the poorer classes are even affecting them, as people are in the habit of saying, that ‘a pearl worn by a woman in public, is as good as a lictor walking before her’.”

Earrings are mentioned in several places in the Bible, but the references are typically unflattering. For example, Hosea 2:13 states: Israel “decked herself with her earrings and jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the Lord.”

Ornamental earrings were designed to to be removed easily so that they might be changed at will. However, earrings were also designed to be more permanent fixtures in the ear—and a sign of slavery. According to Exodus 21:2–6:

“If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul and he shall serve him for ever.”

Mary of Burgundy (1457–1482)

Earrings remained popular in Eastern jewelry through the ages, but Western tastes proved more variable. Although earrings were never considered unfashionable, at times they were not as popular as other items of jewelry. For example, during the Middle Ages, women wore bejeweled headgear and their hairstyles often covered the ears, so earrings became redundant.

Detail of a _Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh_

The popularity of earrings returned in the 16th century. Women wore all manner of earrings, but pearl earrings were especially popular. Men—including Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Francis Drake—also wore gold rings and other ornaments in their ears. Among seafaring men, a pierced earlobe meant a journey around the world or across the equator. Survivors of shipwreck wore an earring in the left earlobe.

1. Helix, 2. Industrial, 3. Rook, 4. Daith, 5. Tragus, 6. Snug, 7. Conch, 8. Anti-Tragus, 9. Lobe

In the early 20th century, it was considered improper to pierce the earlobes. Instead of eliminating the use earrings altogether, screw-back earrings were invented. Screw-back and clip-back earrings remained popular with women until piercing came back into style in the 1960s.

During the 1980s, men once again embraced this ancient fashion. Today it is no longer shocking to see them wearing earrings. Perhaps this explains why piercings have become increasingly elaborate. Needless to say, today’s ear-piercing techniques and equipment are very different from taking an awl and running it through the ear into a door. But in other ways, things have come full circle: borehole sizes once again approximate those sported by Ötzi some 5,000 years ago.


History of Weddings: From the Middle Ages to the Present

Have weddings changed all that much since the Middle Ages? Let’s take a look and see…

We still have the huge feasts which are accompanied often by rowdiness and drunken states. Music and dancing are done by all. The bride has her ladies in waiting, the groom has his attendants. The bride sometimes still wears crinoline and hoops… Most people still get married in churches. If you’re Catholic, you still need an annulment vs. a divorce. Marriage is still considered a contract under the law…

Medieval Weddings

During the middle ages, we saw the rise of marriage laws. In 1076, The Council of Westminster made it a law that marriage must be blessed by a priest, and in the 16th century it was said that the marriage must be performed by a priest with witnesses present. Contracts and legal documents started to be drawn up, similar to today’s prenuptial agreements, marriage contracts and licenses. Dowry, property, rights, etc… would be contained in these documents.

Believe it or not but in the Middle Ages, a woman’s beauty regimen prior to her wedding is very similar to what I did before mine… Her face would often be painted with some sort of cosmetic (discussing cosmetics at a later date). She might sun-bleach her hair. Some women plucked their hairline. In the middle ages, it was considered fashionable to have a high forehead. Now this one I didn’t do, but I have a friend who wasn’t very fond of her widow’s peak. Hair would be worn loose or with a garland of flowers. This might be the only flowers adorning a bride. Some carried a sachet of herbs and potpourri, but not the traditional bouquet that contemporary brides carry.

If a woman came from a wealthy or noble family, she would have a nice hot bath, followed with some flower and herb scented oils. If she wasn’t, she would be dirty…but still get some sort of perfume to cover the smells. It may be foul to think about, but if everyone is dirty, then it’s just normal.

The finest silks with gold or silver embroidery would be worn. Brightly colored fabrics were popular. Men would wear their finest court attire, or even a newly made set of clothes. Jewelry, furs and elaborate belts adorned every noble body.

Today white is the symbol of purity, and most wedding dresses made in this hue. In the middle ages this wasn’t so. Bride’s would wear blue most often, as blue was the symbol of purity. If her gown was not blue, she would wear something blue, like a ribbon on her person. Hence today’s, “something blue.”

The garter also became popular in medieval times. As guests followed the bride and groom to their room, where they “put” the couple to bed, overzealous guests would grapple with the bride’s gown, trying to take something for good luck. That’s when the garter became popular, so people would then try to take it. I wonder how shocked they’d be now if they saw a modern groom, buried deep under his bride’s skirts, pulling out the lacy garter with his teeth? “Oh, heavens!” **crosses self** That would be hilarious.

Peasants usually could only afford to wear their everyday clothes, perhaps the one good outfit they saved for church.

For a person of noble birth, their wedding may take place in the castle or manner. As long as it was blessed by a priest, it wasn’t necessary for the ceremony to take place in a church. Great feasts would follow, with fools, minstrels, musicians, and other entertainers.

Today’s tiered wedding cakes actually stemmed from the Middle Ages. Guests would bring little cakes and stack them on top of one another. The bride and groom would then try to kiss over top of the cakes without knocking them to the ground.

Guests included inhabitants of the residence, other nobles and distant relatives. Invitations were not sent out.

The noble wedding was rarely one filled with love. It was an arranged marriage.

Now peasants were a little different. They would often marry for love… or perhaps a quick love-fest that resulted in pregnancy would push them down the aisle. Despite differences, peasants still considered marriage to be a legal contract, and there were some who also suffered through an arranged marriage. Betrothal ceremonies would be held in the home, attended by some of the villagers. A village tradition was the shower the bride and groom with seeds of grain to wish them a fertile marriage…not so unlike throwing rice, which is going out of style…

Rings were exchanged amongst the wealthy, however among peasants, often the groom would break a coin in half keeping one side for himself and giving the other to his bride.

Elizabethan Weddings

A lot of the customs from the middle ages were still upheld during Elizabethan times. Religion still played a major roll in weddings, and ceremonies would be conducted by a priest, most likely in a church. A procession would take the bride from her home to the church.

Prior to marrying, a Crying the Banns would be done. This was the couple’s announcement of their intention to marry. Should anything bar that from happening, it would be brought up during the banns. This custom still occurs in British churches today. The announcement would be made in church, three Sundays in a row. Anyone who married without conducting the Crying the Banns, their marriage would be considered illegal. If they lived in different parishes, the banns would need to be cried in both.

If someone needed to get married right away however, they could be issued a Marriage Bond, by the bishop. The marriage bond contract required only one week of Crying the Banns. Fun Fact: William Shakespeare and his wife elicited a Marriage Bond from the bishop for their own wedding.

Weddings were held in the mornings, before noon, and the feasts took place afterward.

Flowers played a bigger part. The bridesmaids would be in charge of making bouquets for guests, and to make the wedding garland, which was rosemary and roses. The bride would carry her garland until after the ceremony, where she would then place it on her head.

The cost of the wedding fell to the bride’s father, however in small villages neighbors may prepare food for the feast, sort of like a pot-luck dinner. Another tradition stumbled into Elizabethan times as well, the bride ale. A bride would gather in a courtyard and sell ale to as many people would buy it, for as much as they would pay to finance her wedding.

Invitations were still not sent out. People knew of the wedding and they would attend. If it was to be held at court, courtiers knew to go. Sometimes little notes might be sent out, but nothing formal. Strict social order is observed in the church, nobles up front, peasants in the back.

The marriage contract was still very important, with details of the dowry and jointure (what the grooms family would provide to the bride should she become a widow).

Engagement rings were not yet popular however diamond wedding rings could be seen.

Regency Weddings

During the Regency, weddings became mostly private affairs, and even if held at church was not attended by that many. A very popular place to have a wedding was at St. George’s Church in Hanover Square. In fact, in 1816 there were 1063 weddings held that year in the church. According to the Hibiscus Sinesis website, with that many weddings in the year, it was a rival with a Las Vegas wedding chapel.

It was during the Regency-era that white wedding gowns began to stick. Wearing white was popular during that time anyway, so it wasn’t only a wedding gown thing.

Reading of the banns was still done in the Regency-era but there were also a couple of other ways you could go about it. There was the common license, which was obtained by a bishop or archbishop. The couple had to be married in a church or chapel where either the bride or groom had lived for four weeks. The third way was a special license, which was issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Doctors Commons in London. The special license allowed the couple to marry anytime, anyplace.

Weddings were still done in the mornings and could be followed by a breakfast feast.

Victorian Weddings

Queen Victoria is often given credit for making the white wedding gown popular since she herself wore white to her wedding however there have been many royal and non-royal brides before her that did not wear white.

Flowers began to play a bigger part in the wedding. The church or chapel would be decorated with them. Men would wear a flower in the lapel of their frock coat or morning coat. In the country, a bride would walk to the chapel on a carpet of flower blossoms.

Church bells rang to alert the people that the wedding was taking place, and to ward off evil.

By 1880, weddings could be held as late as 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Scottish Marriages

In Scotland marriages were a lot different. There were not all the rules that applied to England. In Scotland a couple was considered married if they announced it to witnesses, and then consummated the marriage.

In England, people would elope to Gretna Green in Scotland to avoid the laws and restrictions. These marriages were considered legal in England, although they were discouraged. Sounds vaguely like a Vegas wedding…


The Flying Buttress.

Along with pointed arches and ribbed groin vaults, the flying buttress was introduced as a key structural component in mid-twelfth century buildings such as the Abbey of Saint-Germaindes-Prés and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, both in Paris, and the Cathedral at Chartres, France. Exposed arches "flying" over the aisles of the church act to brace the wall against the outward thrust of the vault and the wind pressure on the roof and to direct these forces to massive slabs of masonry (buttresses). Flying buttresses, coordinated with ribbed groin vaults and pointed arches, composed a completely new system. Rather than a continuous envelope of heavy supporting walls, as was characteristic of the Romanesque style, the structure now resembled the cage of an Erector set, with the flying buttresses appearing both internally and externally. By exploiting the potential of these new features, Gothic church architecture was able to achieve the impossible: unprecedented height combined with walls that were little more than perforated screens whose openings were filled with vast fields of dazzling stained glass.


What techniques were used to make rings in medieval times? - History


MEDIEVAL WOMAN SITEMAP • THE BOOK • THE BLOG • ARTIFACT COLLECTION • TUTORIALS • TALKS • NOTICEBOARD

Medieval Sewing Techniques:
Stitches, Seams & Sewing

STITCHING - CONSTRUCTION TIME- JOINING FABRIC - HEMMING - NECKBANDS - EYELETS
EYELET CONSTRUCTION - BUTTONHOLE CONSTRUCTION - CLOTH BUTTONS - TASSELS - LUCET CORD - REINFORCED EDGES


Methods of sewing, joining seams and making eyelets and buttonholes is a topic of great interest to many historical costumers and re-enactors.

Contemporary sewing guides say a little about actual techniques, and snippets of information come to us from other sources- such as a few extant garments scattered the world over, and from written advice.

One snippet to a young housewife when caring for fabric that it should be 'sprayed by mouth as a tailor sprays water on the part of a dress he wishes to hem.'

This tells us that it was fairly common practice for a tailor to dampen a hem with water as it is being sewed. The image at right is a detail from a 15th century illumination showing a woman cutting and patterning.

Construction time
Making clothes was a time-consuming business, More than one person might work on a garment at a time, which can make it difficult to determine how long it took to make something. Housewives might also work on a garment or outfit sporadically.

A little information about the time and costs of making garments comes to us from the Great Warderobe accounts from the English Royal Family in the 14th century, and from this we can estimate the time taken to make certain things.

A pair of hose: about half a day.
A cloak: 3 - 6 days depending on whether it was lined or not.
A supertunic: 3 - weeks depending on whether it was lined or not.
A tunic: 1 - 6 days depending on complexity, lining etc.

Based on my personal sewing experience, these times are all achievable, with exception of the hose, unless the seams are left raw, which would make the feet extremely uncomfortable.

Some special purpose clothing appears to have been commisioned on very short notice and may not have has the finishing quality of garments which were to be worn again and again.

Stitching
There is a common misconception about the quality of medieval clothing.

Many suppose that because sewing machines were not invented, the stitching and quality of clothing was rough or poor. This is nothing more than a gross insult to our women forebears.

It must be remembered that as everything was hand-stitched, sewing was a skill that a young girl would attain great proficiency in at a very young age. By the time a young woman was sewing clothes for herself or her family, a considerable level of skill could reasonably be expected.

Even a poor woman with home spun fabrics would take care to provide her family with the best sewing she could manage to produce garments which would be both warm and durable. Shoddy workmanship would lead to clothing falling apart at the seams whilst the fabric was still serviceable- a waste that the poorer woman could not allow.

Methods of stitching fabric were fairly simple. Shown above:

Method 1. Fell stitch.
Method 2. Running stitch.
Method 3. Combination fell and running stitch for added durability.

Joining fabric together
Different methods were employed for the joining of different fabrics. For a comprehensive look at archaeological sewing, please visit Heather Jones's website ARCHAEOLOGICAL SEWING.

I will not reproduce all the information here when she has done such a huge amount of excellent research already.

Three simple methods of joining fabric together are shown here-

Method 1. The fabric is laid with the outer sides together. A running stitch joins the fabric.
Method 2. A backstitch provides greater strength for a seam.
Method 3. A more time consuming method of seams utilises an initial join which is then opened flat and overstitched with two lines of running stitch. This third method makes a very solid and flat seam.

The images shown here and those shown below are taken from the Museum of London series of books about medieval clothing and remains their property.

Hemming
If a selvedge could be used, it did away with the need for a hem. Cut edges, of course, required hemming to prevent fraying.

The fell stitch, shown at right, was most common. The fabric is folded under and the folded again and stitched into place is depicted below along with variations: combined with a running stitch and a running stitch used alone.

The Goodman of Paris in the late 14th century advises his wife that fabric should be:

'sprayed by mouth as a tailor sprays water on the part of a dress he wishes to hem.'

Neckbands
This example of a neckband shows that a silk strip has been sewn to the inside of the neck of a high-grade woolen garment.

A band like this one would provide extra re-enforcing where wear and tear is likely to occur. The opening reinforcing is made from a narrow silk strip. It is dated between 1325 to 1350.

It is possible that this garment or others like it had similar bands at the ends of the sleeves to reinforce the edges which were subject to the most wear.


Eyelets

Without the use of zips, dresses were fastened by either buttons or lacing. It was more likely that the underdress was laced, providing and smoother and flatter silhouette and a more snug foundation garment. The outer dress was more likely to be fastened with ornamental buttons which were rounded or ball-shaped rather than flat.

Shown at right, a detail of eyelet holes on silk facing from a deposit dated at the 14th century. Traces of woolen cloth from the original garment are able to be seen at the edges of the facing band also.

Eyelets and lacing holes on kirtles were generally no more than 2cm apart. Placing the holes any further apart and the lacing would not prevent the dress from gaping unattractively. A well-made eyelet was as strong as the metal ones we use today.

Take a tape measure or ruler and mark out the eyelets at no more than 2cm intervals. When you have marked the eyelets so they are evenly aligned on both sides, you may remove the tacking stitch. Using a double thread or a thickish linen thread, backstitch a circle around the marked hole to provide re-enforcement. It will also give you a guideline to keep your eyelet where you intended and prevent it becoming lopsided.

Using an awl, pierce the fabric carefully pushing the threads apart.

It is very important that you do not tear or cut the cloth or your eyelet will lose some of its strength or tear under pressure or repeated wear. Make 4 stitches north, south, east and west to hold the hole open and gently use the awl to reopen the hole.

All that remains, it to sew around the circle with close stitches, using the awl from time to time to keep the hole open. You will be surprised at how sturdy the result is.


Buttonhole construction
Similar in construction to the eyelet, the buttonhole is achieved as shown in the picture. The main difference in construction is that the buttonhole always needs be cut before stitching.

The blanket stitch is then used to go around the opening. Buttonholes were usually, but not always, sewn onto a garment which was reinforced with a strip of silk or linen fabric for re-inforcement.

Buttonholes, like eyelet or lacing holes, were very close set and always ran at right angles to the edge of the opening of the garment. Care must be taken to make the buttonhole not too large as it will open a little with sewing.

The images shown here are taken from the Museum of London series of books about medieval clothing and remains their property. The image shows buttonholes at the edge of a woolen garment from a deposit dated to 1325 to 1350.

Sewing Tutorials
I have a few tutorials showing how to make eyelets, buttons and buttonholes as well as how to make the lucet cord which is handy for lacing gowns or for using for drawstrings on pouches.

Look for them on the Pattern and DIY page HERE

Copyright © Rosalie Gilbert
All text & photographs within this site are the property of Rosalie Gilbert unless stated.
Art & artifact images remain the property of the owner.
Images and text may not be copied and used without permission.


A new preoccupation: cleanliness

It is also during this period that people start to feel the need for hygiene. Contrary to popular opinion, cleanliness and therefore perfume become an important preoccupation during the Middle Ages. At the greatest banquets, the hosts offer bowls of scented water to clean guests’ hands because they ate with fingers. The wealthier ladies already appreciated lavender and orange blossom perfumes. They hid flowers under their petticoats and had cushions – small sachets that held perfumed powder – in their laundry.

The bath

At that time, the bath is also a ritual that everyone appreciates. It is practiced at home by aristocrats and is given in large vats made of metal, stone or wood, covered with a sheet and in which we infuse spices. As for the people, they go to public baths that offer hot and flavored baths for a modest sum ok money. Real meeting place, men and women stir together to enjoy a moment of relaxation. This moment of pleasure could even be prolonged after the bath since four-poster beds were available for visitors to luxuriate in charming company.

The end of a ritual

But from 1348, the greatest doctors of the time begin to advice against doing this practice and especially hot baths that open pores, leaving the door open to all bacteria. The pressure of the Church, which condemned these places of depravity, added to the medical recommendations, will end up to the definitive closing of these establishments at the beginning of the Renaissance.

From left to right, the cultivation of various aromatic plants, the pomander worn by a noble and the illustration of public baths, a colorful meeting place.


Bronze and Iron Ages

The Sumerian civilisations in Mesopotamia were the first to use techniques like filigree and granulation. Excavations of the ancient city of Ur have revealed royal graves with pieces featuring these techniques from as far back as 2500BC. The Sumerian craftsmen used gold and silver in combination with precious stones like agate, lapis lazuli, and carnelian. The jewelry produced by the Sumerians consisted of sheet gold cut into earrings, complicated gold chains and necklaces and even stone-inlaid finger rings.

From Mesopotamia, the techniques spread west to present-day Turkey where excavations have revealed fine gold jewelry at Troy that has been dated to 2500-2300BC. The movement may have spread further west towards Greece and Crete as finds of lesser quality and of a slightly later date imply.

On the other side of the Mediterranean, jewellery began to play an important role by the 19th century BC in the Egyptian culture. The Egyptians developed many substitutes for precious stones. Faience and later glass beads have been found in great amounts. Precious stone simulants were invented and are here to stay.

From about 1700BC the Minoan civilisation shows to have mastered the fine techniques of filigree, granulation, and repoussé. The jewelry that has been unearthed on Crete shows strong influences from both Mesopotamia and Egypt but with its own strong design. The Minoan techniques and style jumped to mainland Greece with the city of Mycenae being the port of entry. The Mycenaean civilisation took over the Minoan decorative styles and gradually changed them into a style of their own.

Northern Europe came into it’s Bronze Age around 2000BC and a few well-made items from between 1800 and 1500BC have been excavated on the British Isles. It’s only after 1500BC that the extent of the pre-Celtic cultures’ metal jewelry becomes apparent. Tin, gold, and amber acted as natural riches that enabled the tribes living in these areas to trade with Mediterranean cultures. Rich grave gifts at several spots suggest a fairly well-developed society. Around 1100-1000BC a century of widespread disruption took place. The cultures that emerged from this century of regression, first the Urnfield culture and later The Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, had picked up on the progressive line of technical development and craftsmanship that we are reading throughout this article.

The Celts used red enamel in their jewelry from around 400BC. The technique of applying enamel dates back to the Minoan and Mycenaean times when simple encrusted enameled pieces were made. The Celtic craftsmen took enamel application to the next level though cloisonné and champlevé enameling was used to make very colourful body decorations.

The Celtic culture encompassed a wide variety of cultures living in the northern part of Europe that shared the same style and technique of their (metal) products. As a result, we see a somewhat uniform development in Celtic jewelry right up to the Roman conquest of the Celtic world in the first century BC.

From around 800BC, the Phoenician traders started to establish colonies all around the Mediterranean. They came from the eastern Mediterranean coast, the area that is now Lebanon and Israel, and influenced the jewelry making of the Greeks and Etruscans. The Phoenicians were the connecting element between the long traditions of Egypt and Mesopotamia and the ‘new’ civilisations in Greece and Italy.

Intaglios and cameos originated in ancient Greece where glyptography was perfected to an art form. The Greeks, like every other civilisation up until then, used stones that could be worked easily with the abrasives at hand and yet were hard enough to withstand the hardships of normal daily wear and tear. The most common abrasive in those times was quartz sand which was readily available and was used to polish cryptocrystalline quartz such as agate and carnelian and softer materials like lapis lazuli.

One ancient culture that has left us splendid proof of their gold working skills were the Etruscans. From the 8th century BC and on, this civilisation perfected gold working techniques that were clearly influenced by Greek culture(s). The fine detail of the Etruscan jewelry is of the highest quality and they used many colored stones. The Etruscan style was adopted by the Romans and formed the basis for Roman art and jewelry. One of the characteristics that the Romans adopted from the Etruscans was the love of precious stones in their jewelry.

The Roman Empire connected the western Asian cultures directly with the Celtic western European cultures. The excellent infrastructure provided by the Romans boosted trade enormously and triggered a vast exchange of products from east to west and vice versa. The Celts “Romanized’ quickly and took over Roman ideas of beauty. The characteristic Celtic jewelry made a place for roman techniques and styles.

After the fall of the western Roman Empire, the Great Migration of cultures put an end to the Celtic civilisations. The inlaying of colored precious stones and the revival of the old Celtic champlevé enameling makes jewelry from this period very colorful. The Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist far into the Middle Ages and developed a style of its own, influenced by the East.


Chainmail

Chainmail History
It is believed that chainmail was invented by the Celts. Chainmail history dates back to antiquity and was adopted by the Romans after they realised its potential after fighting the celts. A vatiety of materials were used to make chainmail including brass and iron but the most popular material was steel. In the 14th century, plate armor began to replace the chainmail worn by knights. However the chainmail was not completely disgarded by the Knights who continued to wear a shirt of chainmail beneath plate armor to protect the joints and the groin. Plate armor was extremely expensive and the average soldier during the Middle ages still used chainmail as their most effective form of protection. The history of chainmail shows its decline and use with the invention of the musket in 1520 and the subsequent use of gunpowder in variuos weapons.

Chainmail Armor
Chainmail armor provided protection against being cut by the opponents blade. It was effective against the sharp points and blades of the spear, axe and sword. It helped to prevent the skin being pierced stopping the fatal infections which often followed such injuries. Chainmail armor was ineffective against heavy blows from a blunt weapon. A padded, or quilted, garment known by various names such as Aketon, Arming coat, Doublet, Gambeson, Hacketon was worn in conjunction with chainmail as a form of additional defence. These garments consisted of a quilted coat which was either sewn or stuffed with linen or even grass. This served as padding for additional armour worn over the top. Shirts made of chainmail weighed up to 25 kilograms, depending on the size and the number of chainmail garments worn.

Chainmail Hauberk and other garments
The word chainmail refers to the material of the armor. Various clothes and garments were made from the chainmail material. Each piece of chainmail was fashioned specifically for whichever part of the body it was
intended to protect.

  • Chainmail Hauberk - A hauberk was a knee-length shirt made of chainmail
  • Haubergeon - A haubergion was a waist-length shirt
  • Chausses and Sabatons - Chausses and Sabatons were socks made of chain mail
  • Chainmail coif - A coif was a hood, protecting the head
  • Camail - A camail was the chain mail collar which hung from the helmet
  • Mitons - Mitons were the mittens worn to protect the hands

The Advantages of Chainmail
The advantages of using chainmail a protection during the Middle Ages were as follows:

  • It was flexible
  • Easy to Make
  • Easy and fast to repair
  • Cheap and easy to fit many men, of all sizes
  • Allowed ease of movement

Making Chainmail
Making chainmail during the Middle Ages was undertaken by the blacksmith. Making chainmail armor involved the linking of iron or steel rings, the ends of which were either pressed together, welded or riveted. The rings were formed when they were stamped out of a sheet of iron and then used in alternate rows with riveted links.

Chainmail Patterns
The demand for chainmail during the period of the Middle Ages was substantial. Each piece of mail was fashioned specifically for whichever part of the body it was intended to protect. Chainmail patterns were used for creating this type of armor, resembling a modern knitting pattern. There was a basic chainmail pattern used for each part of the body it was intended to protect. Sizing was easily accomodated by the addition of extra rings. The most common form of chainmail patterns was the "four-in-one" pattern in which each link had four others linked through it.

Chainmail
Each section of this Middle Ages website addresses all topics and provides interesting facts and information about these great people and events in bygone Medieval times including Chainmail. The Sitemap provides full details of all of the information and facts provided about the fascinating subject of the Middle Ages!

Chainmail

  • Middle Ages era, period, life, age and times
  • Interesting Facts and information about Chainmail in the Middle Ages
  • Chainmail History
  • Chainmail Armor
  • Chainmail Hauberk and other garments
  • The Advantages of Chainmail
  • Making Chainmail
  • Chainmail Patterns

Goldsmithing & Goldsmithery (c.3000 BCE on) Techniques, History, Famous Goldsmiths


Statuette of Charlemagne
on the sceptre of Charles V
(Before 1380) Louvre, Paris.
Part of the French Crown Jewels.
Made from gold, glass beads,
pearls, rubies, gilded silver,
white enamel on gold.


Gold Chariot from the Oxus Treasure
(c.600-400 BCE) An exquisite item
of Achaemenid goldsmithing from
Ancient Persia.

Goldsmithing is the applied art of metalworking in gold. A goldsmith is essentially a metalworker whose specialty is working with precious metals like gold, silver, electrum, platinum, alloys like bronze and copper, as well as gemstones. (See also Crafts: History and Types.) Ever since the earliest civilization, goldsmiths have cast and hand-crafted gold artifacts, personal jewellery, platters, goblets, weaponry, equestrian items, as well as precious objects for ceremonial and religious purposes. Goldsmithing proved especially useful during medieval times, when goldsmiths were commissioned to adorn illuminated manuscripts with gold leaf, create gold reliquaries for holy relics and fashion numerous ecclesiastical objects out of precious metals. In addition, most countries have experienced their own "golden age" of precious metalwork, as exemplified by the wonderful Fabergé Easter Eggs made by the Russian master goldsmiths Gustav Fabergé (1814-1893) and Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), during the 19th century. Other types of metalwork involves silversmiths or brightsmiths (who specialize in working with silver), coppersmiths (copper), blacksmiths (iron) and whitesmiths (so-called white metals like pewter and tin).

What are the unique properties of gold?

Gold is an extremely rare, valuable and lustrous metal. Compared to other metals it does not corrode or tarnish, it is easily melted, fused and shaped, and is highly ductile: a single ounce (28 grams) of gold can be beaten into a thin sheet measuring some 300 square feet. It is also easy to pressure-weld. Because of its value and malleability, gold was one of the first materials to attract attention. Egyptian art, in particular, as well as Aegean art were noted for their gold artifacts. Ever since Antiquity, gold items have been used as both decorative art and a source of wealth. In India, for example, gold is used universally both to decorate the body and express one's status. The skill of its goldsmiths is legendary, as exemplified by the Khudabadi Sindhi Swarankar goldsmithing community, whose outstanding artworks were showcased in London at The Great Exhibition of 1851.

What were the main techniques used by Goldsmiths?

A master goldsmith is trained in numerous types of metalworking, including the sawing, cutting, forging, melting, casting, beating, soldering, filing, engraving, embossing, enamelling and polishing of precious metals and gemstones. Traditionally, most goldsmiths either learned the craft in their father's workshop, or acquired the skills as an apprentice to a master craftsman. Many also fashioned jewellery, while a number practiced engraving as printmakers. Many of the best engravers of the 15th century, for instance, were either goldsmiths, or the sons of goldsmiths, such as Albrecht Durer and Martin Schongauer. During the late-19th century, due to the Arts and Crafts movement in England, Art Nouveau around the world and the Deutscher Werkbund in Germany, the art of jewellery-making underwent a significant revival. Today, many of the best art schools offer courses in goldsmithing, silversmithing and metalwork as a part of their fine art program.

In addition to the basic goldsmithery techniques of smelting and forging, goldsmiths learned a range of advanced techniques including niello, embossing, repoussé work, enamelling (including cloisonné, champlevé, basse taille, plique-à-jour), engraving and filagree decoration.

First used by the Egyptians, this decorative technique involves the application of Niello - a black-coloured powder, made by fusing together copper, silver, lead and sulphur - onto designs engraved on small-scale metal objects, usually made of silver. Once the engraved metal surface is coated with the Niello, heat is applied which causes the Niello to melt and run into the engraved channels. Kievan Rus craftsmen were noted for their nielli during the 10th to 13th century, some of which is preserved in the Ukrainian Museum of Historic Treasures, in Kiev. See also: Christian Art (Byzantine Era) (c.400-1200) and Russian Medieval Painting (c.950-1100). Another great exponent of Niello was the Florentine goldsmith Maso Finiguerra (1426-64). Other noteworthy nielli include Anglo-Saxon gold belt buckles and other items from the Sutton Hoo hoards and the Minden Crucifix (1070-1120, Minden cathedral, Germany).

This traditional metalworking technique is employed to create a raised or sunken design in a sheet of gold or other metal. A popular form of embossing is known as Repoussé - which involves the hammering of the reverse side of a metal sheet to create a design in low relief. Another method of embossing is known as Chasing. This works in the opposite way to repoussé: instead of hammering on the reverse side of the metal sheet to create a raised pattern on the front, chasing involves working on the front surface of the sheet to create a sunken design in the metal. Two exquisite examples of repoussé work are the Iron Age Petrie Crown (National Museum of Ireland), and the silver masterpiece known as the Gundestrup Cauldron (1st or 2nd century BCE, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen).

During the process of enamelling, a glass-like glaze is applied to a metal surface (or object) and then subjected to intense heat, which fuses the glaze, turning it into a beautifully coloured decorative coating. The glassy coating (known as vitreous enamel) can be made partly or wholly transparent, or completely opaque furthermore, its colour can be controlled by mixing the smelted glass with various metal oxides such as cobalt, iron, praseodymium and others. (See also: Stained Glass Art: Materials & Methods.) Enamelling has affinities with mosaics and painting, and attained its first peak in early Byzantine culture. It also flourished during medieval times, notably in Limoges (c.1200) during the era of Gothic art, and during the Italian Renaissance.

Cloisonné and plique-à-jour

The technique of cloisonné enamelling (from the French word for compartments) involves the soldering of flattened strips of metal (or gold/silver wires) onto a metal object, so as to create a number of raised compartments (cloisons) which are then filled with enamel and kiln-fired. A more advanced (and difficult) form of cloisonné is known as Plique-à-jour, in which the "compartments" are built with walls that are not firmly fixed to the metal base. The latter is then removed with a few taps, leaving a network of enamel-filled compartments, which allow much more light to shine through. Cloisonné was mastered during the early era of Byzantine art, and during the Romanesque/Gothic period. It also spread to China - Chinese cloisonné is now regarded as one of the most outstanding examples of the craft - see, for instance, the collection of 150 Chinese items at the G.W. Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Mass. Nineteenth century Japanese goldsmiths also produced large amounts of this type of enamelwork, which reached a peak during the turn of the century in Russia, thanks to the House of Khlebnikov and, of course, Fabergé. Other famous examples of cloisonné enamelling in Christian art include the Irish Ardagh Chalice (8th/9th century, National Museum of Ireland) the Holy Crown of Hungary (Crown of Saint Stephen, 11th century, Hungarian Parliament building, Budapest) the Khakhuli Triptych (8th-12th century, Art Museum of Georgia in Tbilisi), a gold altarpiece, reportedly the largest enamelled work of art in the world.

This goldsmith's technique is like cloisonné, except that a low-relief pattern is created (by engraving or chasing) on the floors of the "compartments", which are then filled with translucent or transparent enamel, allowing the design to shine through it. An outstanding example of basse-taille is the French Royal Gold Cup (aka The Saint Agnes Cup) (14th century, British Museum), created by goldsmiths during the era of International Gothic art. A solid gold cup richly decorated with enamel and pearls, it is generally regarded as the foremost example of late medieval French plate.

A specific type of enamelwork - the word is French for "raised field" - champlevé enamelling involves the creation of sunken troughs in the surface of a metal object, which are then filled with vitreous enamel and fired in a kiln or oven. The technique was not fully developed until the era of Romanesque art (1000-1150). Famous examples of champlevé include: the Stavelot Triptych (c.1158), a masterpiece of Mosan art - a style of Romanesque goldsmithery made around Liege, Belgium - now in the Morgan Library & Museum, New York and the Becket Casket (1180-1190) made of gilt-copper in Limoges, France (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London).

Filagree/Filigree (Granulation)

This delicate technique basically involves the creation of gold and silver metalwork, using patterns of tiny gold beads or globules of gold (granulation), soldered to the surface of an object in patterns suggestive of lace. It was widely used by Italian and French goldsmiths from the mid-17th century to the late 19th century. Filagree reached an early apogee in Etruscan and Greek art (c.550-250 BCE), and - judging by the collection of Scythian jewellery in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg - in Steppes art around the Black Sea. In Ireland, examples of filagree goldsmithery include the Tara brooch (c.700 CE, National Museum of Ireland), a masterpiece of Celtic Jewellery art, and the Derrynaflan Chalice (NMI) - both decorated in the La Tene style of art. (See also: Celtic Metalwork art.) Other important examples of filagree gold work are in the collections of the British Museum and the V & A, in London, and the Louvre in Paris.

The term Chryselephantine art - derived from the Greek words chrysos (gold) and elephantinos (ivory) - refers to sculptures made from a combination of ivory carving and gold. Typically, a chryselephantine sculpture was built around a wooden frame, using thinly carved ivory for the flesh, and gold leaf for the armour, clothes, hair, and other details. Precious and semi-precious gemstones were used for details like eyes, jewellery, and weapons. The design of chryselephantine works was often modular to enable the gold to be removed and melted for coins in times of financial necessity. The figure of Nike clasped in the right hand of Phidias' famous statue of Athena Parthenos (c.430 BCE, Parthenon) was made out of pure gold for this very reason. The two nost famous examples of chryselephantine Greek sculpture - both made from plated ivory and gold panels during the era of Classical Greek sculpture - were sculpted by Phidias (488-431 BCE). The first was the 42-foot high statue of Athena Parthenos (c.430 BCE) in the Parthenon at Athens the other was the 36-foot high statue of Zeus (430-422 BCE) in the temple at Olympia, which was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

What is the history of goldsmithing?

As stated above, goldwork was practiced by the earliest Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures that gave rise to Mesopotamian art and Mesopotamian sculpture, as well as Egyptian and later Minoan art. Even less sophisticated styles of Hittite art and Assyrian art had a tradition of gold-working. Gold mines in Egypt, Nubia and Saudi Arabia were major suppliers of the precious metal. Once established in ancient Greece and around the Black Sea, goldsmithery was spread westwards into central and western Europe by migrating tribes of Celts, whose blacksmiths were renowned for their mobile forges and metalworking skills. (See also: Hallstatt Celtic culture [c.800-450 BCE] and Celtic art [from 1,000 BCE]). At the same time, Etruscan art in Italy was becoming famous for the gold artifacts of its tombs. The Romans were also active in goldsmithing, not least because of their innovations in metallurgy: new techniques for large scale gold extraction were developed by introducing hydraulic mining methods, notably in Spain and the Balkans.

The rise of Christianity significantly boosted demand for gold items - for devotional and ecclesiastical needs - and during the Dark Ages, monasteries in Ireland, Iona and Northern England were repeatedly raided by marauding Vikings in search of gold and precious objects, used in the making of illuminated manuscripts by artist-monks. In Constantinople, centre of the Eastern Roman empire and its own style of early Christian art, goldsmiths and mosaicists became renowned for their shimmering masterpieces of gold and multi-coloured mosaic art. See, for instance, the decorative gold and copper work on the celebrated Garima Gospels (390-660) from Ethiopia - the world's most ancient illuminated gospel text. As western European culture regained its strength during the eras of Carolingian art (c.750-900) and its successor Ottonian art (c.900-1050), more goldsmiths were hired to keep up with demand. Another influential school was the Mosan school which grew up in the area around Liege and the Benedictine monastery of Stavelot. Leading members of this school included Godefroid de Claire (1100-1173) and Nicholas of Verdun (c.1156�).

The use of gold for religious and secular objects duly became a worldwide phenomenon, and goldsmiths were constantly in demand both in times of affluence (when they were commissioned to produce an ever-widening array of precious items), and during times of extreme hardship (when gold items were melted down into coin).

The Renaissance: Growing affluence and trade

The cultural revolution known as Renaissance art was underpinned by an equally important revolution in commerce and finance, stimulated by greatly increased trade in silk, spices and ceramics, that would shortly transform many palaces, churches and homes of Christian Europe. The impact was also felt on the arts and culture of the quattrocento. For example, when ordering new oil paintings, patrons began to specify the exact amounts of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other expensive raw materials from the east to be used in the work, in order to increase its opulence and grandeur. And goldsmithery was a central and influential craft in the whole process. (See also: Colour Pigments.)

The prospect of acquiring more gold to fuel their appetite for ostentatious grandeur had a direct impact on European exploration. Portuguese colonialists headed south to Morocco, in the early 15th century, in an attempt to control the gold supply emanating from the rich gold mines of Mali. A century before, in 1324, the Mali ruler Mansa Musa (1312�) undertook his famous hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, during which he gave away so much gold that its market price in North Africa collapsed for a period of several years. The European colonialization of South America was also prompted by reports of the widespread use of gold ornaments, particularly in Central America, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

After the Renaissance, goldsmithery in France was twice stimulated as part of the upsurge in French decorative arts, which resulted from the building of the palaces of Fontainebleau and Versailles. The first revival - associated with the Fontainebleau School - began in the 16th century (c.1528-1610) under the patronage of Francis I (1494-1547). The second revival began in the 17th century under the patronage of King Louis XIII (reigned 1610-43). For details, see: Palace of Versailles (built c.1624-98).

Since then, gold, and the production of gold items, has become closely linked to international trade as well as the liquidity and movement of personal assets, notably in India and the Far East.

Goldsmithing has been a springboard for many different types of art: the history of painting and sculpture, for instance, is full of examples of famous artists who first trained as goldsmiths or silversmiths. They include such Renaissance luminaries as Lorenzo Ghiberti (1380-1455), the Renaissance sculptor Luca Della Robbia (1399-1482), noted for his terracotta sculpture Vecchietta (1410-80), the Sienese painter and architect Antonio del Pollaiolo (1429-98), the quattrocento sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-88), the Medici sculptor who taught Leonardo the devout Florentine Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) the fresco painter Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94) the engraver Cristofano Robetta (1462�) the Paduan sculptor Andrea Riccio (1470-1532) the High Renaissance artist Andrea del Sarto (1486�), the Mannerist painter Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), the Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71) the German engraver and printer Johannes Gutenberg (1395-1468), the artist Albrecht Durer the Elder (1427-1502), father of the Northern Renaissance painter Albrecht Durer the French Renaissance engraver Jean Duvet (1485-1562), the Swiss Renaissance painter and printmaker Urs Graf (1485-1528), and the leading English miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), to name but a few.

Special mention should be made of the great Russian master goldsmiths from the 19th century, such as Andrey Grigoriev, Ivan Gubkin, Sakerdon Skripitsyn, and Ivan Zuyev. In addition, note the "artist-jewellers" Gustav Fabergé (1814�) and Peter Carl Fabergé (1846�), creators of the exquisite "Fabergé Easter Eggs" for the Romanov Tsars. Among the many Fabergé craftsmen involved in the various goldsmithery processes - in addition to the jewellers Michael Perchin (1860-1903) and Henrik Wigstrom (1862-1923) - were Erik August Kollin (1836-1901), Feodor Ruckert (1840-1917), August Frederik Hollming (1854-1915), Johannes Zehngraf (1857-1908), Johan Victor Aarne (1863-1934), Feodor Alexeievich Afanasiev (1870-1937), Karl Gustaf Hjalmar Armfeldt (1873-1959), Oskar Woldemar Pihl (1860-97), Vassily Zuiev (1878-1941). See also: Russian Art (30,000 BCE - 1920).

Famous Gold Objects, Statues, Artifacts and Hoards

In addition to those items cited above, here is a short list of famous objects made from gold and other precious metals.

Ram in a Thicket (c.2500 BCE) British Museum, London
Sculpture in gold-leaf, copper, lapis lazuli, red limestone, from Ur. Regarded as a masterpiece of Sumerian art of the Third Millennium BCE.

Maikop Gold Bull (c.2500 BCE) Hermitage, St Petersburg
Gold Sculpture (Maikop Culpture) from North Caucasus

Vapheio Cups (c.1475 BCE) National Archeological Museum, Athens
Early Mycenean drinking cups by Minoan goldsmiths, using repoussé technique

Mask of Tutankhamun (c.1327 BCE) Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Mummy mask in gold, glass, lapis lazuli, obsidian, carnelian, quartz, faience

Prince of Marlik (c.1200 BCE) National Museum of Iran, Tehran
Gold bust made by Persian goldsmiths using repoussé technique

Oxus Gold Chariot (c.400 BCE) British Museum, London
Part of the Oxus Treasure created by Tadjikstan goldsmiths

Kul Oba Sythian Vessel (c.375 BCE) Hermitage, St Petersburg
Electrum vessel from Kerch tomb, made by Scythian goldsmiths

Broighter Hoard (Gold Torc, Boat) (c.100 BCE) National Museum of Ireland
Finest example of Celtic La Tene goldwork

Bactrian Gold Hoard (1st Century BCE)
20,600 gold ornaments from six burial mounds in Afghanistan

Bimaran Reliquary (c.50 CE) British Museum
Afghanistan gold container, decorated with rare images of Buddha

The Staffordshire Hoard (c.750) Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
3,500-item collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork

Reliquary of St Faith (975) Church of Sainte Foy Monastery, Conques
Made from gold, silver, copper, pearls, cloisonné enamel

Golden Virgin (990) Essen Cathedral, Germany
Earliest surving statue of the Madonna, made from gold leaf, cloisonné enamel

Basel Cathedral Altar Front (c.1027) Musee National du Moyen Age
Made by Ottonian goldsmiths from gold, precious stones, pearls

Shrine of the Three Kings (1180-1225) Treasury of Cologne Cathedral
Created by Mosan goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun.

The Cellini Salt Cellar (1543) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Enameled gold sculpture by Renaissance goldsmith/sculptor Benvenuto Cellini

The Golden Buddha (c.1760) Temple of Wat Traimit, Bangkok
World's largest solid gold statue worth approx $250 million

Collections of Gold Objects

Many of the world's best art museums have collections of antiquities made by goldsmiths from all over the world: see, for instance, the gold ornament rooms of the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, as well as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Note also that the British Royal family has over 250 Fabergé items in the Royal Art Collection. In America, the most extensive collections of gold artifacts are held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the G.W. Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts. Other collections of "objets d'art" are on display in specialist museums including the History Museum in Samokov, Bulgaria the Art Museum of Georgia in Tbilisi the Ukrainian Museum of Historic Treasures in Kiev National Archeological Museum, Athens the Egyptian Museum, Cairo and the Musee National du Moyen Age, Paris, to name but a few.

• For more about decorative arts and crafts, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.