Archaeologists Uncover 1,300-Year-Old Necklace at Medieval Burial Site

MajorsDec 12, 2022

Archaeologists Uncover 1,300-Year-Old Necklace at Medieval Burial Site

The Museum of London Archaeology called it “one of the most spectacular female Early Medieval burials ever discovered in the U.K.”

20221212_Medieval necklace header.jpg
Archaeologists discovered this ornate gold necklace believed to be more than 1,300 years old at a burial site in Northamptonshire, England. (Image courtesy of The Museum of London Archaeology)
London—Archaeologists have discovered an ornate gold necklace believed to be more than 1,300 years old at a burial site in the U.K.

The Museum of London Archaeology announced the findings in a press release last week, naming the hoard the necklace is a part of the “Harpole Treasure.”

The Vistry Group, a U.K.-based house building company, had commissioned a search of an area in Northamptonshire before beginning construction.

The dig had been “pretty unremarkable” until the team spotted a glimmer of gold.

“When the first glints of gold started to emerge from the soil, we knew this was something significant. However, we didn’t quite realize how special this was going to be,” said MOLA Site Supervisor Levente-Bence Balázs.

In April, the team uncovered a necklace dating back to 630-670 AD. It has several pendants, including gold Roman coins, gemstones set in gold, and decorated glass pendants set in gold.

The pendants are spaced out by gold beads.

At the center of the necklace is a large rectangular pendant made of red garnets and gold with a cross motif.

“We think that it was originally half of a hinge clasp before it was reused in this necklace,” said the museum.

20221212_1-Medieval beads.jpg
A closer look at the beads and pendants on the necklace (Image courtesy of The Museum of London Archaeology)

For jewelry historian and antiques expert Tanzy Ward of Zanathia Jewelry, the necklace is both a treasure and a helpful research tool.

“The intricate details on the pendants gives us more insight on the traditional designs and artistic craftsmanship that was superior in early Medieval times,” said Ward.

“Additionally, the jewelry of this era was one of the major influences in early Victorian Era styles as well.  Finding a remarkable piece of this caliber is amazing to study and compare with later jewelry designs that tried to reproduce the aesthetic of the Medieval Era.”

A similar necklace, called the “Desborough necklace,” was discovered in the same area in 1876. It is considered to be the finest of its kind and is currently stored in the British Museum.

While similar necklaces have been found, this necklace is notable for its variety of pendants and that it’s believed to be intact.

 Related stories will be right here … 

“It isn’t clear if [the Desborough necklace] is complete, because the workmen had portioned the pendants and beads amongst themselves before being persuaded to hand them over for a small reward. We know that the Harpole Treasure necklace is complete.”

The museum believes the site is that of a female burial. While no significant human remains were found, similar necklaces have been discovered at female burial sites from this period and “extravagant burials” are nearly exclusive to women during this period.

Aside from the necklace, the team also found other treasures that gave them insight into who this woman might have been.

When they x-rayed soil blocks from the site, they found a large ornate cross set with garnets and smaller crosses at the end of each arm.

The piece is being micro-excavated, but an x-ray shows an incredible level of detail.

20221212_2-Medieval xray.jpg
An x-ray of the area shows a large ornate cross, leading the team to believe the woman buried at the site may have been an early Christian leader. (Image courtesy of The Museum of London Archaeology)

At the end of the two arms of the cross, there are human faces cast in silver.

“The sheer size of the cross suggests the woman buried here may have been an early Christian leader,” said the museum, calling it “one of the most spectacular female Early Medieval burials ever discovered in the U.K.”

As for what’s next, the team said it is in the early stages of conservation and analysis and hopes to learn more about the cross and necklace.

As per the country’s Treasure Act, the findings were reported to the coroner and have to go through a legal process.

If declared to be a “treasure,” the goods will then be valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee.

The Vistry Group has waived its right to a portion of the reward, so the valuation process may be skipped.

For comparison, though, a contemporary gold and garnet pendant, known as the “Winfarthing pendant,” was discovered in Norfolk in 2014 and was valued at £145,000 ($178,000).

The Latest

Stock image of woman on laptop with charts
SurveysFeb 29, 2024
Want Insight Into Industry Salaries? Check Out This Careers Guide

From bench jewelers to appraisers, Jewelers of America’s updated guide shares an overview of how much industry employees are being paid.

Victoria Gomelsky and Valeriya Guzema
Events & AwardsFeb 29, 2024
JVC Announces Luncheon Speakers

Ukrainian jewelry designer Valeriya Guzema will be the focus of a live interview segment.

Symposium logo
Events & AwardsFeb 29, 2024
Symposium ’24 Announces Speaker Lineup

It’s a “who’s who” of the business, marketing, and jewelry world, said the event.

GIA id100
Brought to you by
Full Disclosure at Your Fingertips

Distinguishing natural diamonds from laboratory-grown stones – now more available than ever – has been difficult for jewelers. Until now.

JA New York Group Show Director Matthew Tratner
EditorsFeb 28, 2024
Q&A: Matthew Tratner on the Future of JA New York

The industry veteran, who took over as group show director last fall, talks about his vision for the 118-year-old trade show.

Weekly QuizFeb 29, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
Shoppers holding bags in winter weather
SurveysFeb 28, 2024
Consumer Confidence Dips in February Amid Uncertainty

The Conference Board’s revised January reading suggests consumers did not start off 2024 as confidently as previously thought.

Marti Stephens
IndependentsFeb 28, 2024
Borsheims' ‘Ike-It’ Award Goes to Shop Manager

Marti Stephens was honored with the annual award.

flashforge pic.png
Brought to you by
WaxJet: Revolution in Jewelry Manufacturing

The WaxJet 400, recognized as the world's fastest wax printer, is bringing in a new era of precision and efficiency to industry.

Indian actress Saiyami Kher celebration sapphires
SourcingFeb 27, 2024
Fura’s New Sapphire Jewelry Is Traceable to the Source

The gemstone mining company’s “Celebration Sapphires” collection has launched in India.

National Jeweler columnist Lilian Raji
ColumnistsFeb 27, 2024
The PR Adviser: Leveraging Those Early Victories

Lilian Raji offers advice to a “small brand with big dreams” that is unsure of what its next step should be.

Sotheby’s MoonSwatch Suitcase auction
AuctionsFeb 27, 2024
Sotheby’s MoonSwatch Suitcases Sell for Over $600K

The auction house sold all 11 “MoonSwatch Moonshine Gold” suitcases, donating the proceeds to eye care nonprofit Orbis International.

Nikia Levesque
MajorsFeb 27, 2024
Nikia Levesque Joins WJA Board as Foundation VP

The association also announced five new board members.

Matteo Farsura Italian Exhibition Group
Events & AwardsFeb 27, 2024
IEG Names New Exhibition Manager for Jewelry, Fashion Division

Matteo Farsura, former exhibition manager of Vicenzaoro, will oversee the Italian Exhibition Group’s various jewelry and fashion shows.

Lightbox lab grown diamond pendant in yellow gold
Lab-GrownFeb 26, 2024
Lightbox ‘Significantly’ Lowered Its Prices in Q4

The De Beers-owned lab-grown diamond company dropped the price on its standard offerings from $800/carat to $600/carat.

JA New York signs
Events & AwardsFeb 26, 2024
JA New York to Bring the Diamond District to Spring Show

The upcoming show will have an immersive “47th Street Experience” for attendees.

GIA Dubai laboratory
GradingFeb 26, 2024
GIA Opens Lab in Dubai

The new DMCC Laboratory at Uptown Tower will initially serve clients in Dubai free trade zones.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 with affirmations
WatchesFeb 23, 2024
Rolex to Open New Watchmaking School in Dallas

The Rolex Watchmaking Training Center will welcome its first class this fall.

Guzema Freedom heart pendant for Ukraine
CollectionsFeb 23, 2024
Piece of the Week: Guzema’s ‘Freedom’ for Ukraine Pendant

Ukrainian jewelry designer Valeriya Guzema’s charitable “Freedom” collection is inspired by hope for the country’s future.

Elton John’s leopard print Rolex Daytona watch
AuctionsFeb 22, 2024
Elton John’s Leopard-Print Rolex Roars at Auction

Two Cartier watches also topped their estimates at Christie’s “The Collection of Sir Elton John: Goodbye Peachtree Road” evening sale.

Buccellati header
TrendsFeb 22, 2024
Buccellati to Open ‘Prince of Goldsmiths’ Exhibition

Set to be held in Venice, it’s a look through the maison’s history.

813-carat “Constellation” diamond in rough form
SourcingFeb 22, 2024
Lucara, HB Group Partnership Revived

It is another 10-year sales agreement in which all the larger rough recovered from the Karowe mine will go to HB Group for manufacturing.

Sebastian Clarke and Katherine van Dell of Heritage Auctions
AuctionsFeb 22, 2024
Heritage Auctions Adds 2 New Hires to West Palm Beach Office

Sebastian Clarke and Katherine van Dell, frequent appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow,” will join the new office.

National Jeweler columnist Sherry Smith
ColumnistsFeb 21, 2024
On Data: January Was a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Jewelers

Sherry Smith dishes on the month’s highs and lows and the two categories consumers were loving ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Stock image of diamonds
GradingFeb 21, 2024
GIA’s Same-Day Service Now Available Everywhere

The new service, introduced to stem fraud related to lab-grown diamonds, will be offered at no cost for the time being.

Jam + Rico Claire’s jewelry
CollectionsFeb 21, 2024
Jam + Rico Debuts Second Claire’s Collection

Founder Lisette Scott was inspired by the intricacy, colors, and symbolism of African art and architecture.

Rapaport logo
SourcingFeb 21, 2024
Rapaport to Hold Another Natural Pearl Auction

Viewings start this week in New York and bidding will close on March 8.

National Jeweler columnist Peter Smith
ColumnistsFeb 20, 2024
Squirrel Spotting: Life After Rolex

Peter Smith shares advice from independent jewelers who used losing this cornerstone brand as a catalyst for reinvention.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy