Adorn: Timeless pieces

27 Dec 2019

Nicola Hearn, Adorn Volunteer

Hi, my name is Nicola and over the summer I frequently volunteered for the exhibition Adorn, Jewellery; the Human Story. In today’s blog post I will be talking about my favourite case in the exhibition, Materials and Making, and my favourite object within it, the Elizabethan ruby pendant.

The Materials and Making case contains a variety of beautiful pieces of jewellery and other adornments, placed directly next to the materials that create them, as well as many of the tools used to make these pieces. This allows a comparison of the raw materials with the jewellery that can be made from them, both historical and modern. Examples within the case includes silver and gold ores, precious stones, and even more unconventional materials such as bone, jet and coral. While I was volunteering over the summer I found that the large piece of coral within the case was very interesting for young children. One little boy was so excited to tell his mum exactly what the earrings hanging next to the piece was made of, after I pointed out the differences between the two.

As well as containing objects such as pendants, hat pins and brooches, the case also contains a variety of tools and instruments for making. This includes modern tools and equipment such as hammers and gloves, next to those instruments in the historical era. During my volunteering I found visitors spotting the differences and similarities between the two sets of tools very interesting. One young boy and his father found these tools to be very intriguing due to their age and the many similarities to the tools of today. Many visitors had similar thoughts about the jewellery. They couldn’t believe the age of some of the pieces within the case! Numerous times I had people comment that much of the jewellery not only within this case, but the entire exhibition, were timeless could be seen as fashionable today.

As a history student currently at University, my favourite period to study is the Elizabethan to Victorian period (the 16th to 19th centuries). Therefore, my favourite object within this case is the Elizabethan ruby pendant, closely followed by the amethyst Victorian hat pin. This is because these are personal items of adornment, much like the rings in the Hoop and Bezel case, which display not only the fashion of the period but the personal taste of those that would have worn these at their time of making. I also find these pieces interesting in contrast to the materials that made them; they show the craftsmanship of the time in a very delicate fashion.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my post, and that you will soon come to visit the exhibition to see these amazing objects for yourself.


Nicola is part of the Adorn Volunteer team at Colchester Castle. The group play a key role, welcoming visitors, sharing further details about the displays and keeping watch over the objects. If you would like to join them, simply contact us for more information.


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