reliquary / pendant
Gold reliquary pendant of lozenge shape with integrated coil suspension loop. The obverse is engraved with a female saint, possibly the Virgin Mary, or Saint Helena supporting the cross. The cross is speckled in a manner to suggest it is either bleeding or is covered in blood. To the left and right of the figure are foliate tendrils. The floor on which the figure stands is of a chequerboard design, indicating a tiled floor or pavement. The reverse of the pendant is engraved in the centre with a heart, surrounded by four weeping incisions indicating the five wounds of Christ, and a profusion of droplets indicating Christ's blood. The reverse is a moveable panel which slides out to reveal a cavity in which a relic, possibly of the true cross, would once have been placed. The sides of the pendant carry on three of the four panels the names of the Magi: IASPAR, MELCIOR, BALTASAR. The remaining panel is engraved with a foliate detail.
- 16th century (Early)
- Found/Acquired: Hockley (area)
- (Europe,United Kingdom,England,Essex,Hockley)
- Width: 25 millimetres
- Length: 33 millimetres
Inscription ContentIASPAR, MELCIOR, BALTASAR
18 October 2010
Reason for treatment
Investigate any contents; if necessary, by opening the reliquary
In October 2010 the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research of the British Museum was requested by the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure to investigate a means of identifying any surviving contents inside the gold reliquary pendant from Hockley, Essex, subject of Treasure case 2009 T256. This was to facilitate the valuation of the pendant by the Treasure Valuation Committee. Radiography was considered, but it was concluded that the density of the gold would render this ineffectual. The object was passed to Metals Conservation with the aim of investigating possibilities for opening the pendant.Condition and treatmentThe condition of the gold was good (although any original enamel had been lost, since no traces remained) and the object was relatively undamaged apart from the lid. The lid (the back panel) was designed to slide out, along grooves cut into the side panels and via a notch in the suspension ring. Probably during burial, this panel had been forced sharply downwards towards the lower corner of the pendant and was now jammed in place at an oblique angle, completely immobile.
Working under a microscope (x7- x40 magnification) and using a specially made miniature steel probe as a lever between the lid and pendant sides (Melinex polyester sheet was used between the tool and the gold to protect the metal), the lid was prised free. This took some two hours of careful manipulation.Examination of contentsAfter withdrawal of the lid, the contents remained undisturbed and could be examined under a stereomicroscope at x40 magnification. Along with some residual silt and soil, the contents consisted of matted root hairs. No other organic material, either intrusive or of deliberate deposition, was observed.
Prehistory and Europe
- 2009T256 (Treasure Number)
- ESS-2C4836 (PAS Database Number)
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Object reference number: MCM35088
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