A hundred and one years ago, workmen demolishing Wakefield House in Cheapside, London swung a pickaxe into the cellar floor and heard it thump against a wooden box. Inside, they found almost 500 rings, broaches, gems, watches and other awesome examples of the jeweler’s art. They stuffed their hats, pockets and hankies and ran to everyone’s favorite local fence, Stoney Jack.
Fortunately for history, Stoney Jack wasn’t a thug, but a respectable antique dealer named G.F. Lawrence — also head of acquisitions for the brand new London Museum. Which, you’ll be astonished to learn, ended up with 99% of the collection.
Among the jewels was a broach engraved for the first Viscount Stafford, which neatly dates the collection after 1640 when he took the title but before the Great Fire of London in 1666. Why the hoard was buried and never retrieved, no one knows but, as a jeweler’s working stock, it proved priceless to historians. If you’re at all interested, do hit the links (especially the first one; that’s the best article I read).
The hoard is (finally!) going on display in the Museum of London this Friday. Why they didn’t have it ready for the 100th anniversary, I do not know.
That thing in the picture, by the way, is a tiny watch…inside a single enormous hollowed-out emerald. A Google image search is highly recommended.