The UK’s only known example of a late Medieval jewelled cluster brooch, discovered by a metal detectorist in 2017 has gone on display in the V&A Museum.
The brooch, dating from c. 1400-1450, and made in either France or Germany, is the only one of its kind to be found in the UK, and one of only seven known examples in the world.
Triangular in shape, the gold brooch in the form of a flower is mounted with two diamonds and one central cabochon spinel, with enamel decoration, and pearls, which have since been lost due to degradation.
The brooch is full of religious and romantic symbolism. During the period, diamonds were associated with strength and eternity due to the belief that they could not be broken or destroyed, while red stones such as spinels symbolised passion as well as good health, and pearls represented purity.
The brooch lay hidden just four inches below ground for nearly 600 years before it was dug up in June 2017 by metal detectorist, Justin Owens, using his Minelab E-TRAC metal detector.
Since arriving at the V&A, the brooch has undergone painstaking cleaning and conservation by Senior Metalwork Conservator, Joanna Whalley. Whalley used intricate tools, including pheasant and ostrich feathers, to limit damage as she removed layers of dirt to get it ready for public display. Conservation treatment acted as micro-archaeology as nearly 600-years of mud was meticulously dislodged to reveal the intricate 3D structure of the brooch.
The broach has gone on display in the V&A’s jewellery gallery.