Gold acorn cup

Probably from London, England, around AD 1610

The earliest surviving piece of secular English gold

Gold and silver cups have always been highly prized for their symbolic value as well as that of the metal. They were frequently given as marriage or diplomatic gifts, or were especially commissioned as evidence of wealth or social status. By the end of the sixteenth century cups came in all sizes and shapes, often deliberately fantastical. Naturalistic forms were also popular, such as animals and birds, or gourds, apples, pears, nuts and acorns. Other than church plate, solid gold cups survive only rarely, as they were melted down either for their monetary value or for the making of new, modern pieces once they had fallen out of fashion. This remarkable cup is the earliest surviving piece of secular English gold.

The greyish glass goblet in the form of an acorn is a reflection of the same naturalistic style, and is likely to have been made in direct imitation of a gold or silver-gilt example. The bowl and the beehive-shaped cover are decorated with 'trails' of clear glass, while the lion-mask stem is made in a mould. It was probably made in the glasshouse of Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol (1520-95) at Innsbruck, Austria.

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More information


H. Tait (ed.), Five thousand years of glass (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)


Height: 20.200 cm
Height: 20.200 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1956,10-4,1;M&ME 1880,6-17, 6


Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund


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