Sunday, 23 October 2011

Trip reports - Sri Lanka and Tamworth...

Aaaah, time flies when you are enjoying yourself, and I have been enjoying myself. In Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It's a good job they are so relentless at selling gems in Sri Lanka, otherwise I would have come home with a bucketful (and a second mortgage). But as it was the high pressure sales and high (negotiable) prices largely kept me out of the gem shops. Sadly I can get better prices on stones in the UK.I wish I could have browsed more though, the variety and quality of the gems on offer were just stunning and I don't often get the chance to see such an array. But it was too difficult to get away without buying anything!

I did buy one little tiny pink sapphire, but I paid too much. It's a lovely colour but quite badly cut with a visibly off-centre culet. Nice though, and a reminder of Sri Lanka.

Before I went on holiday I meant to write up a trip report about the Staffordshire Hoard which I went to see mid September. For those who don't know, the Staffordshire Hoard is the largest Anglo-Saxon gold find in history. It was discovered by a metal detectorist in 2009 and was sold to the British Museum for a cool £3.3 million. Not a bad day’s metal detecting that!

The hoard doesn't include much jewellery, it is mostly decorated weapon parts, sword hilts and such like. It looks like it has been deliberately mangled and then buried and there's a lot of speculation about why. The find includes over 3,500 pieces in total (!). Most pieces are still being cleaned up and studied - a major operation for which funds are still being collected through donations.

We saw around 40 pieces when we visited the hoard in its recent three-part tour of the Midlands. First there was an interesting guided tour around the medieval Tamworth castle before our 30 minute allotted time with the hoard pieces.

The pieces were stunning. The metalwork is so intricate with tiny, tiny filigree designs and pain-staking garnet cloisonné work.

The filigree wire was less than 1mm thick twisted, flattened and soldered onto a gold base, making the wire look like tiny beads. No wonder they give out magnifying glasses so that you can examine the pieces more closely!

The garnet stones were smooth, but sparkled a lot. Apparently they put gold foil underneath to increase the flash. The metalwork was so inspiring given the limited tools of the time.

Unfortunately photos were not permitted, but there are a few here:

If you are in the States and near Washington DC - lucky you - over 100 items from the hoard are at the National Geographic Museum from 29th October 2011 until March 6 2012.

I can't wait until they have more pieces available to see!


  1. Well, you just made me envious twice over. Once for your trip to Sri Lanka, the gemstone island and secondly for having seen the Staffordshire Hoard up close!

    I live vicariously through the internet as you can see from my past post -

    Thanks for trying to guess that gemstone on my blog today. What a mystery!

  2. Thanks Beading Gem, I just learned even more about the hoard! Love your blog, Pearl, always so interesting and informative. :-)

  3. hi

    If you have a English language website/blog about jewellery/accesories you can make free self-advertising here

    thanks :)