Weight: 9.570 g
Prehistory and Europe
Gold brooch hoop
Early Medieval, 7th century
Probably from Wales
Part of a unique British brooch
The history of this open-ring brooch is almost unknown. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1997 when it came up for auction in Devon among a collection of household possessions.
The hoop was made from a plain rod of gold beaten at the ends to form two flattened terminals. Each terminal has the same simple decoration on the back and front: three grooves at the junction of the terminals with the hoop and rows of rough circles stamped into the metal. In use a pin would have been attached to this hoop, as on the County Cavan brooch. Unusually, there is no evidence of wear on the hoop caused by the presence of a pin.
This is the only gold brooch to survive from early medieval Britain, but there are five bronze British Celtic brooches of related type which help to identify and date this hoop. Two other gold penannular (open-ring) brooches of somewhat later date have been found in Ireland. All three are of high purity and must have been of exceptional importance to their owners despite their small size. According to early Irish law only people of royal rank were allowed to wear gold.