St Albans is celebrating its medieval heritage this summer, they’ll be exhibitions, workshops, performances and demonstrations throughout the holidays.
Medieval jewellery pieces are among the most beautiful and unique in the world, with unique motifs and designs, the jewellery from this era continues to inspire present day styles.
The Medieval era began with the fall of the Roman Empire and extended until the beginning of the Renaissance. Most pieces of fine jewellery were limited to royalty, nobility, and the clergy at the beginning of the medieval period. Jewellery became an indicator of rank, wealth and status, and people were condemned for wearing ornaments that were not proper to their status. The lower ranks of society wore jewellery made from base metals, such as copper or pewter.
While the types and styles of Medieval jewellery were wide ranging, there were common characteristics that united these pieces.
• Goldsmiths worked with gold as the most precious metal, while silver became a metal alternative for lower classes. Most gold used in jewellery production was recycled from ancient coins and other gold pieces.
• In the late 14th century, precious stones were usually polished in a convex shape rather than faceted. These were called cabochon stones.
• Diamonds were less commonly used in the early Middle Ages, but emeralds, sapphires, rubies, turquoises, pearls, corals, freshwater pearls, and amber were common.
• In the early Middle Ages, the most common jewellery types were those with a function - belts and brooches, but this changed over time as jewellery became more of a fashion statement.
• The most common forms of jewellery in medieval times were necklaces, rings, pendants, and brooches. Signet rings were popular and worn by men for practical reasons, they were used to send messages, seal letters and to signify rank. They served as unique marks of identity for shopkeepers, guilds, and merchants.
In the later Middle Ages, a lot of thought went into the selection of the gemstone. The stone wasn’t only selected for its aesthetic appearance, but for its medicinal and symbolic meaning and value.
• Sapphires were thought to keep evil at bay.
• Rubies purified the mind and body.
• Emeralds could increase wealth.
• Turquoise helped in providing protection.
• Diamonds were thought to instil bravery and courage.
Check out our Medieval inspired Galio pieces below...