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 The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 01:26

I mulled a lenth as to where to put this topic and decided here was best best it is about the craftsmanship and use of gold that I mean to dwell.

The recent Beeb programme was quite well done with experts the experts homing in on the history of Mercia in some depth. Less time at the end was awarded to looking at the many artifacts - and much talk about how they illustrate the falseness of the Dark Ages. I thought this notion died an age ago.

The exquisite weapon pommels with garnet inlay - over 90 yet not a trace of a sword, and most else were often damaged as if ripped off, as was a cross bent and brooches twisted, suggesting that they were taken from the vanquished - whoever - and probably assorted.

Now, whoever was wealthy and I assumed settled in strength for such things? Craftsmen do not thrive in a community under constant threat. Mercians only ended up with them. The garnets, it was suggested but research may clarify came from India or Sri Lanka. Why the latter I have no idea; garnets lie about the earth in the far north of India. I once picked up a handful in a load of gravel in a car park. I digress. Bohemia and other places in Europe have garnets, I admit they mentioned but only as inferior stones.

The gold was surely reworked - perhaps many times. If ever there is a material witness to history, it is gold. The fine workmanship was not unlike that of the Sutton Hoo inlay pieces and the time similar - possibly between 650-750 has yet to be found through lab work.

These programmes never dwell enough on the making of the artifact - there were, of course, countless shots of re-enactors playing at dressing up and clashing weapons. Modern jewellers - so the prog asserted said that the garnet slivers so thin would take great skill and to make and they wondered how. A quick trip to Agra might be informative.

The Pietra Duiro style (spelling?)- inlaid marble anyway, was taken to India by skilled men of Florence for the decorative work on the Taj Mahal. The skill is very much in use and in the best of the factories still doing it, the slivers of semiprecious stones such as garnet are wafer thin. The work is done by Moslem descendants of the original craftsmen all done in the old way they told me - and that many went blind with the strainby the time they were 30. I saw a table top there that had been 26 years in the making. I was also asked to leave the workshed by 'a suit' because I questioned them too deeply about their welfare in my weird use of their language.

Much of the design work of the Anglo Saxon hoard was in the flowing Celtish style mercifully preserved in areas unsullied by Roman design influence but who knows who commisioned it or where the gold came from?

As ever, such programmes open the way for more questions than they provide answers. And one thing in particular intrigued me; a cross was decorated in the tiny dots of gold style that I have only seen on ancient Greek pieces taken from Nestor's palace, for instance - the furry body of the bees was done in that way. What did any one else think about this programme - or come to that any of my thoughts on it?

Regards, P
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 06:17

Haven't seen the show P, but I agree that these shows, disappointingly, never dwell at length on the style and workmanship or on how pieces were actually made in comparison to now. And there are NEVER enough pictures of the actual pieces.

It highlights the lack of or poor research in the making of these documentaries imo, and surely neglecting that aspect of the story is to miss the point entirely on the significance of the find?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 08:52

I agree too P there is far too much time taken with men dressing up and playing with swords rather than what is actually the important and most interesting aspects of the finds themselves. Perhaps they try to be 'first' to produce a programme and so have not had time to get all the relevant facts and results of testing etc.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Sun 29 Jan 2012, 20:25

I missed this show, but I agree, whilst the Brythonic Celts get a lot of attention regarding archaeology and culture etc, the AS societies never do?

I think mainstream history leaps from the Romano-Britons to the darned Normans?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 12:29

I'm not really surprised that AS doesn't get a lot of TV coverage and the reason is rather depressing - there's very little in the way of spectacular pictures to be had apart from the Sutton Hoo treasures and stuff like the Staffordshire hoard. The stains left by foundation timbers and bits of pedestrian pottery do not a programme make, not these days anyway, and there's no towering castle ramparts for the presenter to stand on, windswept and interesting, while he or she holds forth.

If anyone wants a comprehensive look at the Staffordshire items, the website http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/
has great pictures, particularly in the gallery section.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 14:49

Thank you for adding the pictures, ferv. It fills out my ramble substantially.

There was mention in the prog - and shown - a small collection bu important of an AS helmet, a boar crest and other pieces. It is time that all the small collections along with the S Hoo stuff were put into an exhibition at the British Museum Collected items would give a morre cohesive backdrop if padded with a few reconstructions.

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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 15:05

Glad to be of assistance P. I agree about a comprehensive exhibition and it could incorporate the wonderful crosses which also display the amalgamation of motifs that characterises the Insular style. One thing though, why must these big exhibitions always be in the BM? It's a bit parochial I know but it's such a trek and an expense for we poor northerners to get there. We help pay for the place but so rarely are we able to see not only the major events but the permanent collections as well.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 15:11

As long as they don't make the same mistake as the National Museum in Dublin. There, the museum long ago realised that the amount of gold and silver artefacts it had from bronze age and iron age Ireland was not only unique, but considerably extensive. For this reason alone it chose to set all the "valuable" pieces together as the principal attraction in the museum and they still occupy "centre stage" to this day. This is fine, and it does certainly attract attention and increase visitor numbers, but setting pre-christian torcs adjacent to christian chalices, for example, and only on the basis that they are made of precious metal, does little to explain the true historical relationship between them and does much to obfuscate their true contexts.

Years ago the museum held a meeting for members to discuss the wisdom in sending the most valuable of these "national treasures" (and thus were they described) on a world tour. In the end they did so, and I believe the tour was a resounding success, the items' stay in various cities around the world being used not only to raise awareness of Irish heritage but as a powerful adjunct to various marketing ploys on the part of government and industry. However, during the meeting it was brought up that while the tour was a good idea, when the items were "back home" they should not really be lumped together as before but set into a more intelligible and coherent historical context under display. It was with some disappointment that I noticed this suggestion, received positively by the majority who attended, including the director, has not been acted upon and Ireland's "national treasures" display is back where it was before its few years abroad.

A friend of mine who works at the museum often bemoans the inanity of the questions and opinions about history enunciated by the majority of the museum's visitors when he has had occasion to interact with them. I could not help but tell him once that I was not surprised that this was his view since, as with any enterprise, one ends up with the customers one deserves. And far from criticising his guests, he should examine instead the policy of displaying confusing contexts to first-time visitors without much or any pre-knowledge of the country's history and then expecting them to be much better informed than the museum itself encourages them to be.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 15:35

The hoard obviously looks like it was stripped from more than one battlefield, there are (what look like) Celtic and Norse pieces as well as AS. It appears to be someone's life savings, and not an ordinary person either but possibly someone of rank.

Thanks for the links ferval. Unbelievable and painstaking workmanship and design involved in the pieces, but I'm in particular raptures over that seahorse and the fish.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 22:29

Your delight, ID was my reaction and what prompted me to start the thread. The quality of the hoard was superceded by much yap about Mercia and very little about the quality of the pieces or the cultures that may have produced them.

The Insular style being what, ferv? The knot design? Am curious but spare me the Reith lecture. And I hope you are reasonably neat in appearence too. All the female experts looked like unmade beds - and I bet they all laughed at the Turner prize example.

I apologise for my odd mind that digresses so easily. P.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 23:04

Insular art is a blend of mainly Celtic, la Tene and Anglo Saxon styles with classical and perhaps Pictish and other influences, the supreme examples of which are the likes of the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. Although these illustrated manuscripts are often thought of as typifying Celtic art, they are full of Anglo Saxon motifs. The full flowering was probably later than the Staffordshire material and apart from the Pictish class one stones (no crosses) usually in a Christian context but the basic elements, the interlacing and zoomorphic animals, are there.
Wiki has a couple of rather nice articles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insular_art
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_art
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Mon 30 Jan 2012, 23:20

Am with you but have never heard the term Insular art before. Interesting that La Tene is in there - that would be late epoch La Tene I think? Or is it because so much stems from La Tene? The term is covering a long time span and broad canvas - though I understand the need for it because they are interdependent. Will have a wikki read tomorrow before I blab on any more.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 02:07

MMm, interesting ferval. I'd never heard of Insular Art either. This page from the Book of Kells is remeniscent of the gold and garnate pieces found in the hoard

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KellsFol292rIncipJohn.jpg

And this from Sutton Hoo is very similar in style also

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sutton.Hoo.ShoulderClasp2.RobRoy.jpg
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 11:04

Priscilla (re your OP),
I’m intrigued by the garnets too. Garnets, including good gem quality ones, can be found all over the place… certainly in locations in Wales, Scotland, the Alps, the Pyrénnées… without having to go all the way to India. Isn’t that basically why they are classed as semi-precious? Admittedly they do not have quite the same brilliance and colour of rubies but their deep red colour does go well with the yellow of fine gold, and aren’t garnets (and probably rubies too) traditionally associated with the blood of Christ? So I always thought garnets were favoured in Celtic and Saxon artwork because they were relatively easy to obtain. Before modern times if craftsmen were getting their garnets from India wouldn’t they have used comparable amounts of other semi-precious stones as well, such as lapis lazuli, turquoise etc (all from India too) - or is there something I’m missing?

However I would have thought it would have been easier to create such intricate cloisonné work by enamelling ie not having to cut tiny individual stones into intricate shapes to correctly fit the mounting but by “casting” ground glass in situ. I’m pretty sure glass enamelling techniques were known and the technology was certainly within the abilities of Saxon craftsmen, so I cannot see any reasons why it wasn’t more widely used… or was it? And for flat inlay work why bother to use stones such as garnets - surely whole point of using precious stones is to have them stand proud of the surface with facets that can catch the light?

EDIT : By flat inlay work I'm thinking of items like the Sutton Hoo purse lid:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sutton.Hoo.PurseLid.RobRoy.jpg

..... Surely this would be so much easier to make by enamelling than by using garnets?

On a side note, there is a thriving local industry here around Perpignan in French Catalonia, making gold and garnet jewellery. It is called "traditional" since it is based on the Blood & Gold colours of the medieval Catalan flag, but actually the industry was only really established in the mid 19th century. I believe it originally used locally mined garnets, but today it is cheaper to import them from India.

Going even further off topic (apologies), but you made the comment: “If ever there is a material witness to history, it is gold”… how very true. I used to work in a precious metal (gold, silver, platinum) foundry/ refinery, and once did a calculation of the relative proportions of “historic” gold in the average piece of modern jewellery, say your wedding ring, ie the average relative proportions of gold currently in circulation which came from:

melted down ancient egyptian, bullion and art works,
gold from west Africa (the gold coast) including melted down treasures of the Ashanti etc
melted down Inca treasure,
gold from the Californian gold rush
gold from the Klondike gold rush
etc etc.. through to gold mined in USSR and South Africa since 1900

Some of the proportions were surprisingly high. I seem to recall that an appreciable proportion of “modern” gold in circulation (from memory it was a few percent) almost certainly came from the ransom of the Inca emperor Atahualpa. Makes you think doesn’t it?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 18:52

Most interesting, Meles. All the inlay in this hoard was garnet and very much like Sutton Hoo pieces. I think therre was a concurrent use of enamel inlay for similar work further into the continent - and glorious in colour.
The old gold info was as I thought. And there too is all the gold from the Black Sea area to add to the melting pot.

Scythian use of gold was exquisite and in design on the cusp of ferv's Insular Art styles I would venture to add. The ancient History of Central Europe is fascinating but somewhat neglected .

Why, oh why do programmes for the masses have to try to make further mystery and wonders of what already is. Garnets from Sri Lanka indeed.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 19:39

There's no reason why the garnets weren't from India, lots of prestige goods were being imported at the time. Business is business and the merchants who traded didn't care who the customer was. The routes had been travelled for a very long time and didn't come to halt when the Romans toddled off, North African red slip ware and wine were still coming in, particularly along the west coast. The AS warlords would have had just as intense a desire for the exotic and best quality as any big men throughout history.
The pigments in the illustrated manuscripts were pretty exotic, lapis from Afghanistan, bright yellow orpiment from the Mediterranean, murex as well; their god got the best and most prized materials.
Presumably a lot of the gold was Irish, some Welsh and some Scottish - our new gold mine at Tyndrum is opening soon.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 23:20

My thought is that there was no need to import from India when garnets are found in many closer places. Murex purple dye from murex shell fish also was found in southern Italy - east coast and some bays in Sicily. Have found thee myself in the Arabian sea - and also violet sea snails. These are an amazing purple but irregular in source. (They are windborne and feed on a blue jelly fish that has a wind vane and has a very nasty sting - fstsl to some.)

And yes, ferv the ancient trade routes and merchandisefrom distant parts always surprise - bu must always be assumed. Glad you have a new gold mine. Where can I get one?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Tue 31 Jan 2012, 23:22

My thought is that there was no need to import from India when garnets are found in many closer places. Murex purple dye from murex shell fish also was found in southern Italy - east coast and some bays in Sicily. Have found thee myself in the Arabian sea - and also violet sea snails. These are an amazing purple but irregular in source. (They are windborne and feed on a blue jelly fish that has a wind vane and has a very nasty sting - fstsl to some.)

And yes, ferv the ancient trade routes and merchandisefrom distant parts always surprise - bu must always be assumed. Glad you have a new gold mine. Where can I get one?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 05:27

A fascinating discussion, I had never thought that the gold being used today would be partly recycled from what had been around for millenia. But it makes perfect sense that it would be, what isn't still underground wouldn't just disappear. I'm now looking at my wedding rings in a new light and wondering who.........

Precious stones and pearls, likewise too, I'd imagine?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 08:37

There's really not all that much gold in the world - hence it's value. If all the gold ever mined were gathered together into a single lump it would only form a cube just over 20 metres along each side. Not that much has been lost (some is temporarily out of circulation in wrecks at the bottom of the sea, a tiny amount has gone on space probes, some is effectively permanently tied up in artworks etc) but the rest is still doing the rounds. Jewellery, coin, industrial alloys and bullion all get salvaged, refined and reused eventually - very little ever gets "thrown away". In the refinery where I worked even the paper hand towels in the toilets and the dust from the filters in the airconditioning system, were regularly burnt and the ash added in for refining to collect every last scrap of gold.

Amongst all the general industrial gold scrap received for refining, I have seen seen old coins, broken jewellery, wedding rings, gilt picture frames, silver gilt cutlery, chemists crucibles, computer circuit boards, dental restorations, tanks of old gold electroplating solutions etc... even the occaisional swastika-stamped nazi bullion bar and once a 2m tall gold-plated bust of Lenin! And all those items will have come from gold melted and remelted many times over throughout the centuries, whilst being continuously added to by freshly mined gold. For example, of all the gold artifacts that were looted from the Incas nearly all went straight into the melting pot and was very soon in circulation throughout Europe as ready coin - that's why there are relatively few precolumbian gold artworks still in existence.

Today, with the current high price of gold, I expect a lot of old heirlooms are turning up for remelting. You tend to get your money a lot quicker by giving up your coin and jewellery collection for its scrap value than trying to sell it for its numismatic or collector's value, which may not be that much higher anyway. Dealers cannot afford to hold onto huge stocks of potentially valuable items while they are evaluated and sold, so inevitably a lot of beautiful, even sadly, historically valuable articles, just go into the pot along with your old dental cap that the dentist replaced last week.


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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 09:14

Islanddawn wrote:
A fascinating discussion, I had never thought that the gold being used today would be partly recycled from what had been around for millenia. But it makes perfect sense that it would be, what isn't still underground wouldn't just disappear. I'm now looking at my wedding rings in a new light and wondering who.........

Precious stones and pearls, likewise too, I'd imagine?

So am I, ID. My rings are white gold...

Didn't Oliver Cromwell have most of the Crown Jewels melted down/sold off during the Interregnum? I wonder where all the gold/silver/precious stones etc. ended up?

And fonts too - used for the baptism of royal babies - they were often made of silver or gold. Elizabeth I, for example, sent a magnificent gold font for the christening of her godson, baby James of Scotland. It weighed, according to the Diurnal of Occurrents, *two stone* (!). Lord knows how much it was worth - an amazingly generous gift from the English queen. I think Mary, Queen of Scots, later had it melted down (I'm not sure - will check).

I wonder how many of these fonts are still in existence? Very few, I should imagine.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 09:29

But before Cromwell didn't Charles I lose a lot of it into the sea of Burtisland following his coronation tour of Scotland? It was one of my ancient kinsmen (well he had the same surname) who had been chartered to ferry the treasure out to the King's ship, but lost the lot when a squall swamped his barge. Nor was this the last time that one of my family managed to confound the plans of the mighty - but that's another story.

EDIT : And of course King John lost a lot in the Wash... I have the same trouble but for me it's only socks
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 10:09

Mmmm, Meles plus meles

I have long pondered the fact stated solemly by Stephen ]''and therefore must be right" Fry that if al l the gold in the world was gathered it would just about fill two Olympic swimming pools.

You say 20 cu m. which I assume is the approximate. So where did these figures come from? On what assumption?

For starters,if all the wedding rings in the world were smelted that would be quite alot . Anyone for sums?

In the subcontinent - of great population, as far as I can tell almost everyone owns a bit of gold, however tiny - beggars' baies willoften have tiny gold earrings. But a great number own much very more. Safe deposit boxes in every city groan with the weight of jewellry and tola bars of it. I am astounded by what women display at gala events. I have had to tend ears dripping with blood from over heavy wedding earrings - and its never less than 22carat. Of course 24 is always smiled upon but be careful about admitting to something being 18c - just not the ticket. Oh for Tas on these boards, he would back me up on this.

Where there is no trust in banks - or there is undeclared wealth to be hoarded, it goes into gold. I reckon there's quite a heap in the Middle East. And Bhudda gets quite a share further east. I know nothing about China and Japan re gold-lust
As I recall a country - was it Burma? - that got into a mess and asked for gold donation from everyone and a staggering amount was given in?

I think that the figure given for gold in circulation is an under estimated.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 11:26

Priscilla,

I admit I was quoting from memory but a look at wiki confirms my figure as near the accepted "correct" figure. The mining, refining and market of gold has always been strictly controlled by governments since in the past gold was the primary basis for national and international currency. Hence the official controls of quality, such as Hallmarks, and the penalties for debasing coinage etc. Also very often in the past it was illegal for individuals to possess bullion or to take large quantities of gold to other countries without permission. And of course in the past most people would never have possessed much gold. Silver was the basic metal of domestic currency - gold, an any significant quantity was more the medium of international exchange. Also gold deposits are not common, and where gold does occur, it has usually come to the attention of governments fairly quickly. Gold mining requires investment, and gold refining and assaying are not easy. And where a rich strike has been found, like say the Californian or Klondike gold rushes, it has inevitably prompted some sort of official intervention and control.

I honestly do not know how the 20m cube figure was arrived at but I would imagine that it derives in the most part from official records and estimates compliled over the years. I know for instance that the Spanish records list down to the ounce how much gold was produced in the New World, how much was brought to Spain, how much was nicked en route by the English etc... Most of the world's stock of gold has been amassed only since 1800 with the major finds in the US, S Africa, Australia, Russia... all of which effectively fell under strict governmental control. Although the gold standard is no longer in use, there are today very few refineries around the world that are approved to produce "Good Delivery Gold Bars" and they all keep good inventory records, so the amount of fine gold entering the system is very accurately known. Similarly the international movement of any significant quantity of gold is equally well recorded.

That said it is not really known how much gold is squirrelled away in households around the world but it is generally thought to be very small compared to the huge amount stockpiled in bank vaults. Which is quite ironic, given the vast amounts of money spent digging the stuff up, only for it to be buried underground again.

EDIT : Just for interest that 20m cube would weigh 165,000 tonnes and at current gold prices would be worth about £5,000,000,000,000 Shocked


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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 11:27

So have we all been conned? Gold is valuable because it's rare (as well as inert, malleable and pretty) - what if it's not really so rare at all? And it's only valuable because we all agree it's valuable. But gold is like everything else in the history of commerce. It is only worth what you can get someone else to pay for it.

"I don't believe in gold," declared Nouriel Roubini - the infamous Dr Doom.

I'm trying to remember what was said in "Utopia" about gold - I think the Utopians fashioned their chamber pots and close-stools out of it. Gold was also used to make chains and fetters for slaves. Diamonds, pearls and carbuncles (!) were given as pretty toys for children "for none but children use such baubles".

White gold is possibly what the ex-boss of Ratners would describe as "crap" - gold and nickel alloy. Oh dear.

PS Princess Margaret once commented on one of Elizabeth Taylor's huge rings: "How vulgar!" Liz, having let the princess try the ring on, retorted: "There, not so vulgar now, is it?"
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 11:47

As a metallurgist I would say that white gold need not be "crap". You can get 18 carat white gold... it is a lot harder and so it doesn't abrade as easily as 18 carat yellow gold.

But you are correct there is very little consumption of gold. These days most newly mined gold gets refined and then ends up being shuffled between bank vaults around the world, only occasionally being melted down and entering the domestic circuit. Gold does have it's uses but the demand is more than met by current world wide production.

Platinum (and the other platinum group metals) however are rarer and do have real industrial use in catalysts, glass manufacture, thermocouples, anti-cancer drugs, jet engine turbines... and jewellery.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 11:56

I'm a white gold fan as well and it's exactly the same degree of purity as yellow or indeed rose, 37.5% in 9 carat and 75% in 18 carat. My wedding ring is or was - white and yellow but it's a lot thinner than when it was new and the white has all gone, who's got my missing gold?

The ability to endlessly recycle metals is one reason why we find such a small proportion of the copper, bronze and iron that gave the 'ages' their names, usually only the ritually deposited stuff is still intact. Another reason, I must regretfully admit, for being grateful for religion!

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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 12:27

Meles meles wrote:
As a metallurgist I would say that white gold need not be "crap". You can get 18 carat white gold... it is a lot harder and so it doesn't abrade as easily as 18 carat yellow gold.

Phew - that's a relief !

Fabric can be made from gold or silver thread - the famous "tissue of cloth-of-gold (or silver), although no one - not even a very helpful lady at the V&A - has been able to explain to me exactly how it was made. I think thread was literally coated with metal, but how on earth that was done I have no idea. Garments made from cloth-of-gold or cloth-of-silver must have been very heavy - and of course *extremely* valuable. And surely the silver in "tela d'argento" would tarnish? How were these expensive items of clothing cleaned, I wonder?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 13:02

I think cloth of gold was made by twisting silk or wool yarn with fine gold wire, or maybe narrow tape (basically flattened wire) a bit like the fancy string you can buy for wrapping your Christmas presents. The resulting composite thread was then woven on a loom like any other cloth.

I guess you could even make it out of just gold wire.

Platinum wire is still woven into cloth to make sheets of catalyst for the manufacture of ammonia (the key first step in making artificial fertilizers amongst other things). The cloth is made on regular industrial-sized weaving (or these days more often knitting) machines, which are just modified to take the weight.

If made with fine enough wire the cloth is reasonably flexible, not much worse than heavily embroidered brocade. I have seen a wedding dress made in pure platinum/rhodium catalyst cloth - done as a publicity stunt at a jewellery exhibition. It was quite heavy but but the glamorous young model could still twirl and parade down the catwalk in it.

Sorry, I do seem to have led this discussion a bit off topic.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 13:25

Meles meles wrote:
I think cloth of gold was made by twisting silk or wool yarn with fine gold wire, or maybe narrow tape (basically flattened wire) a bit like the fancy string you can buy for wrapping your Christmas presents. The resulting composite yarn was then woven like any other cloth.

I guess you could even make it out of just gold wire.

Yes, that makes sense and that's what the V&A lady tried to explain - silk thread wound around with very thin strips of beaten gold, not *coated* at all as I said. Gosh, that must have been a fiddly thing to do by hand.

I wonder just how much pure gold is still used in the very grandest of church vestments - such as those worn by the Pope, or by the Archbishop of Canterbury on great occasions? What on earth would Jesus have thought? ("Go, sell all thou hast and give it to the poor..."??)



Meles meles wrote:
Sorry, I do seem to have led this discussion a bit off topic.

We have all egged you on, MM (especially me - will shut up now).


Last edited by Temperance on Wed 01 Feb 2012, 18:11; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 13:28

Not much off topic - Meles. And at the risk of steering it even further ...

A while ago on the BBC messageboard in a discussion regarding ancient Irish trade I happened upon an authoritative looking piece of research (a JSTOR document, so normally dependable) which showed how isotopic analysis of certain precious metal artefacts could demonstrate their point of origin, and in this manner a hitherto unsuspectedly large amount of European (and even Middle Eastern) material could be traced back to southern Ireland. Others could be traced to southern Britain by the same technique. If I remember correctly it was a case of reading the impurities which yielded isotope data, lead being a common one. The research was by a team headed up by Trinity College Dublin and (I think) Warwick University.

Now, for the life of me, I can't find it - which is making me suspicious. Are you familar with this work, or anything like it?


PS - your description of how they made gold cloth is flawed. I remember a History Channel Exclusive which proved that it was made by force-feeding silkworm larvae with gold dust pate.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 14:19

Nordmann, I am not familiar with this particular work although I do vaguely recall similar studies which, as you correctly say, measured the relative quantities of impurity isotopes to get a characteristic signature for an artifact, and then comparing it to the signature from various gold deposits around the world. So I don't think you're imagining it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 16:06

Temperance wrote:
Didn't Oliver Cromwell have most of the Crown Jewels melted down/sold off during the Interregnum? I wonder where all the gold/silver/precious stones etc. ended up.

Not to mention everything that was stripped from churches and monestaries during the Reformation. Most of it still walking around today, imagine that!

The Parthenon once housed a 40ft chryselephantine Phidias statue of Athena, and in the right hand she also held a solid gold figure of Nike. The Parthenon was also the treasury of Athens, in times of hardhip some of the gold was melted down and in times of prosperity up to 6 solid gold figures of Nike could be cast and housed there.

Another Phidias chryselephantine, a smaller (!) 36ft statue of Zeus was in the Temple at Olympia, that and the Parthenon statues all sadly disappeared centuries ago but I can't help but think of the poor elephants that went into the making of these enormous statues.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Wed 01 Feb 2012, 23:21

Gold thread. This is of course still used in the weaving of silk saris. I have been gifted several with gold thread and the others have silver. They are heavy, very expensive and mine only used a few times - just felt silly and inept with the performance so set them aside many years ago. Old grand saris are burned for the metal - a roadside job in old markets lanes that old women do.

Silver in cloth is a bind because it tarnishes and its hard to find a place to polish the motifs and borders without destrying the fabric.. The grand gold and silver brocade thread is always of very fine metal and I have no ideaa how it is made or where - or what to do with a heap of what I have. Now of course this cloth can be replicated far far cheaper in modern threads

And for the record, the gold thread long gloves of Elizabeth 1 were made of the thin golden byssus threads of the Pen shell used to anchor itself deep in the sand. The Pen shell - called thus because it looks vaguly like a broad quill also produces black pearls - large baroques in particular so sadly it is now in decline as students find out and raid the known beaches for it. They give up digging after decimating a generation for small reward - then the next student intake appears after a year or two.. Treasure comes in many forms and the seekers after it many.

Right, that is another and probably boring digression. Anyone anything more to say about the AS hoard?
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 04:53

Not boring at all P.

You are correct about the Sari though, they do look a bit silly on foreign women. There is something about the way Indian women move, that fits perfectly with the sari. Or has that wonderful graceful movement developed because of the sari? But whatever it is, it is lacking in other women.

Another digression, I'm afraid.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 09:00

Priscilla wrote:
Right, that is another and probably boring digression. Anyone anything more to say about the AS hoard?

Boring? How so, when you have provided relevant and interesting answers to points raised? Thank you, Priscilla, especially for the information about Elizabeth I's gloves - I'd never heard of the Penn shell or the golden "yarn" that comes from it.

Just a quick digression on digression. Some of the best discussions on the old BBC messageboard developed as a topic wandered or "digressed". Surely that's OK, if the original poster does not object and if, above all, there is a genuine *conversation* or exchange of ideas going on, *several* contributors being involved and obviously interested.

Edit: I'm doing a spot of googling about this Penn shell (called a "noble" shell) - fascinating stuff - stockings were also made from the byssus it produced.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 13:44

I have no idea where else it is found as Arabian seashells is my area of knowledge, The Penn - yes I thought it had a double n - can be very large, over a foot long.. The nacriatic lower inhabited part of the two halves is usually irridecent black mother of pearl. Quite common in the bay where our hut is so I am an expert on the depredations of students' digging.
Fortunately the rarest shells and interesting corals area is only exposed during about two spring tideslows of the year. Once I rushed from a posh lunch to speed the 15 miles to it in full glory - and wet trainers -along side village women on the same questin the rock pools. I never take live shells - and have been known to find and hide them when the women are about. There is only 20 mins window betweeen tide changes but very exciting - if you are into this sort of thing.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 14:31

Definitely am P! The kids and I have made quite a collection of shells, corals, seahorse and other stuff found on the beach over the years. My biggest hope is to (one day!) find a turtle shell, it happens occasionally but I've never been lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time.

My son once spent a couple of summers cleaning fishing nets for pocket money, fascinating what can come up in those also, everything and anything (aside from the fish!) from shells and corals etc to pottery, bottles and pieces of WWII aeroplanes.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 16:27

For once I do like the wiki take on the penn shell and its byssul thread...

"The cloth produced from these filaments can be woven even finer than silk and is extremely light and warm; however, it attracts clothes' moths, the larvae of which will eat it. It was said that a pair of women's gloves could fit into half a walnut shell and a pair of stockings in a snuffbox".

Succinct, informative, yet pleasantly quirky...
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 23:47

ID - since we seemed to have finished with the hoard allow me to wax on the subject of turtles.

They nest - green turtles that is - in mearby beaches on certain high tides circa April. This I have seen manytimes but the best part was helping a studen research them. With permission he took 75 eggs. He had to leave the country before they hatched. leaving copious instructions with his mother who had a blue fit - matched her hair - who promptly arrived at my place with assorted bottles and tins of them in damp sand.

With marked calrndar I kept watch and 53-57 days later - as was hinted, they began to break forth - 55 of them -an endangered species... very endangered at that moment in time as I was in a panic.

So i going to work late for several days, with friends, we made for various beaches. The early ones close to town, later hatchings to the further bay where they were laid. They must walk the beach to get the horizon line in memory in relation to the soft slope of the beach.

We walked them all safely down the sea. Usually preditors line up with, wild dogs, crows, and gulls for easy take away. Once in the sea they then become food for anything with a moutht big enough. I wonder if any made it back to lay some ten years on. I never saw any in the garden anyway!.

That was for ID and now I'll get back in my box on such things.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 05:31

Good grief, this discussion as gone from AS gold all the way to turtles!

We have the Loggerhead (caretta caretta) turtles here, they enjoy nesting in the Med mainly along the Greek, Turkish and Cyprus coasts and quite a proportion of the Atlantic population come originally from the Med. Unfortunately they are not great breeders and have become extremely endangered and there is quite a battle going on to increase the population. Here flights will even be banned on some islands during the spring nesting season so as not to disturb the turtles, gorgeous creatures.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 09:32

Meles meles wrote:
For once I do like the wiki take on the penn shell and its byssul thread...

"The cloth produced from these filaments can be woven even finer than silk and is extremely light and warm; however, it attracts clothes' moths, the larvae of which will eat it. It was said that a pair of women's gloves could fit into half a walnut shell and a pair of stockings in a snuffbox".

Succinct, informative, yet pleasantly quirky...

Yes, some of the references are fascinating - the byssus thread was referred to by Herodotus apparently - it was used for mummy cloths. And the "fine linen" often mentioned in the Bible sometimes meant this golden "sea-silk" (what a lovely name for a fabric), rather than the material normally associated with flax.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 10:22

Did you catch the story about the spider-silk cape? "Milking" over 1,000,000 spiders!
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 12:22

Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Did you catch the story about the spider-silk cape? "Milking" over 1,000,000 spiders!

Just read it - absolutely amazing!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/jan/24/spider-silk-cape-show
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 12:30

Fabulous in every sense, like a garment from a fairy tale. The embroidery is magnificent as well as the fabric, how tiny the needles must have been.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 12:45

ferval wrote:
Fabulous in every sense, like a garment from a fairy tale. The embroidery is magnificent as well as the fabric, how tiny the needles must have been.

Isn't it just? I've got to go and see it - I wonder how long it's on display?

And according to the article there were "devices" used during the 18th and 19th centuries to extract spider thread! I know the chap in the article said the spiders were unharmed, but they can't have been too happy about the process. No wonder he got bitten.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 13:31

Actually spider thread has a long history in scientific intruments - it was used for the cross-hairs in sights etc. - as well as webs used as wound dressings.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 13:57

Temperance wrote:
Quote :
....they can't have been too happy about the process...
I think that is part of the problem why spider silk has rarely been extensively used. I seem to remember attempts in the 1980's to harvest spider silk by collecting spider's webs. After remaking their webs several times, the spiders soon cotton onto the fact that someone is stealing all their hard work, and so they just give up and refuse to make any more. And frankly who can blame them.

But there remains a great potential use for spider silk. Amongst other valuable properties it has a tensile strength greater than kevlar. Hence all the business of genetically-modifying goats to produce spider-based proteins in their milk.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 14:28

The cape is at the V&A until June 5th - great! Isn't the colour wonderful - that's all spider work too, no dye used at all.
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PostSubject: Re: The Anglo Saxon Hoard found in Staffordshire   Fri 03 Feb 2012, 14:34

All those spiders and all that time and labour to create, just imagine how expensive one would be to buy! Wonder if it would keep the rain out though.......
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