Collection online

cap-hook / hat-ornament

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Silver-gilt cap-hook. The front of the plate cast in the form of a stylized flower with four petals at the corners interspersed with four smaller petals. At the centre, a pyramidal form. The petals are decorated with ribbing. On the reverse, a soldered S-shaped pin, now slightly out of alignment, with a sharp point. The join of the pin to the back-plate is flattened and the backplate has many scratch marks indicating cleaning up after the casting process. Gilded on the front.


  • Date

    • 16thC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 13 millimetres
    • Width: 14 millimetres
    • Thickness: 6 millimetres
    • Weight: 3.62 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Belonging to a small group reported through the Treasure Act. The hook indicates a cap badge rather than a dress-hook. Hans Holbein the Younger's portrait of Simon George, c.1540 shows how these hooks were worn. See Gaimster, D. Hayward, M. Mitchell, D. and Parker, K. "Tudor Dress Hooks" Antiquaries Journal 82, 2002 p.182
    See also 2001,0310.1, 2001,0703.1 and 2005,0105.1.Hat ornaments were worn by men in their caps from the end of the fifteenth century and could be either purely decorative or symbolic. Those of the latter type are traditionally termed enseignes, since they either conveyed the personal intent of the wearer or carried a visible message. This type of jewel finds its origins in the medieval pilgrim badge, an object that was mostly mass-produced and often in base metal. It has been suggested that the transition from this type to a fashionable male ornament is attributable to the arrival of the French king, Charles VIII, into Naples in February 1495. On his cap, the king wore a gold circular jewel and his men had similar jewels (though not of gold) on their caps or sleeves. The Italians soon adopted this fashion and it then spread north reaching most of the European courts. The fashion lasted only until the late-sixteenth/early-seventeenth century, when the wearing of aigrettes became more popular.

    The hat ornament was usually commissioned of gold, and was enamelled or jewelled, or both. A group of gilt-bronze plaquettes in the British Museum’s collection, with the characteristic loops or pierced holes for attachment to a cap or garment, suggests that this was a fashion that trickled down to lower classes of society. The majority of these plaquettes show scenes from classical mythology, allowing for the meaning to be understood by a larger audience. This category of objects has been mostly cast, which was a much cheaper and quicker mode of production than those that were commissioned. One of these plaquettes (1915,1216.133) has visible traces of enamel. This combined with the gilded decoration and placed at the apex of the body would have deceived any casual passer-by that this was a costly piece.

    Gentlemen, in imitation of courtly practice, may have also worn hat ornaments painted with Limoges enamel. Although it is often very hard to determine a definitive use for Limoges enamelled plaques, since they could assume a variety of roles, there are four similar hat ornaments recorded in Hackenbroch, <i>Enseignes</i> (1996), figs. 95-6, 98-9. Bernard Palissy commented on the wearing of Limoges enamel badges in his treatises: "Je m'assure avoir vu donner pur trois sols la douzaine des figures d'enseignes que l'en portoit aux bonnets, lasquelles enseignes estoyent si bieng labourées et leurs esmaux si bien parfondus sur le cuivre, qu'il n'y avoit nulle peinture si plaisante." (cited in Hackenbroch, p.82).

    The survival of an object such as this cap-hook, which purports to be grand with its central pyramidal form alluding to a faceted jewel, demonstrates another fashion - that of wearing multiple ornaments in the hat. Evidence of this practice can be seen in contemporary images which show these smaller ornaments worn alongside the emblematic badges on the hat, such as Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Simon George, ca.1535 or that of Sir Nicholas Poyntz, after Holbein, ca.1535.


  • Bibliography

    • Read 2008 178, p.194 bibliographic details
    • TAR 2004 p. 118, no. 232 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • 2004T359 (Treasure number)


If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCT25105

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help