NMGW-221F3A: Medieval heart-shaped pendant

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Unique ID: NMGW-221F3A

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Description: Gilded silver heart-shaped pendant engraved with the symbols of Christ's wound. The front is made from a sheet raised in repoussé style into a dome, and vertically grooved at the top to make a heart shape. It is soldered to a back-plate cut from a sheet and indented by filing to give a scalloped or cusped edge; there are seven lobes down each edge, and one at top and bottom. A two-strand 'rope-twist' filigree wire border encircles the heart, concealing the join between front and backplate.

A suspension loop has been made at the top, by cutting and drilling the backplate to give a circular hole around which a loop of similar two-strand filigree has been soldered. The loop still has a fine single-strand twisted-wire suspension ring attached. The gilding is exceptionally well preserved, on front and back (slightly thinning towards the centre of the backplate).

The decoration comprises an engraved pointed-oval made from two lines, set transversely on the left-hand lobe of the heart (from the point of view of the observer). This represents the wound in the side of Christ, and several short lines issue from it downwards, representing running blood. Below and to the right of the wound are small drop-shaped indentations representing drops of blood.

Dimensions: Overall length excluding separate suspension ring 30mm; maximum width of back-plate 21.4mm; maximum thickness 5mm; weight 7.27g. The pendant has not undergone any cleaning or conservation.

Discussion: This pendant is related to gilded silver dress hooks with similar cusped back-plates (eg Caldecote, Warwickshire and Staxton, North Yorkshire; Gaimster, Hayward, Mitchell and Parker 2002, figs 4, 5), Parham in Suffolk (Thornton and Mitchell 2003, 486-7, and and examples in Wales from Wentlooge, Monmouthshire (Treasure Ref. No. 07.22), Llanfair, Vale of Glamorgan (Treasure Ref. No. 11.08) and Raglan, Monmouthshire (Treasure Ref. No. 11.07). The heart form and construction is particularly closely paralleled by dress hooks with tear-shaped backplates and raised hollow teardrop decorative panels such as those from Phillack, Cornwall and Landkey, Devon (dated to the sixteenth century; TAR 2004, nos 262, 263), and those from North Curry, Somerset and the Taunton area (TAR 2005/6, nos 661, 662). Documentary evidence indicates that these dress-hooks were popular in the sixteenth century (the latest reference in an inventory being dated 1598; Gaimster et al 2002, 184).

The heart was readily adopted from the fourteenth century as a symbol of passion, courage and devotion. Heart-shaped lockets of slightly later date commemorating Charles I, without the characteristic indented backplate, are better known, such as a silver heart-shaped plaque found east of Colchester, Essex, engraved with the motto 'prepared to follow me' and the initials 'CR', common during and after the Civil War in the seventeenth century (TAR 2007, no. 382). A similar heart-shaped object, perhaps a locket, engraved with the initials CR flanking a crown, was found near Wendover, Buckinghamshire in 2006 (TAR 2005/6, no. 779), while examples are to be found in the V&A (M.811-1926 and M.3-1958; Bury 1985, 7, plate 2a, c). A heart-shaped silver locket in two parts, forming a shallow compartment for a scent impregnated sponge, and engraved with a two-handled vase of flowers and the motto 'In thy sight is my delight' illustrates the amuletic version of some such items (Murdoch 1991, no. 127).

The heart spurting drops of blood was a devotional symbol during the medieval period, and one of the hallmarks of late medieval piety. Images of disembodied wounds became an international symbol of the consequences of sin, in particular the large wound inflicted on Christ's side by Longinus. The crude depiction of the wound is reminiscent of the five wounds of Christ on the late fifteenth-century gold ring known as the Coventry ring (British Museum, P&E AF897). Christ's blood was reputed to have healing powers alongside other amuletic charms.

In view of the sixteenth-century date, it is possible that the pendant represents an affirmation of faith during the Marian period of Britain's counter-Reformation. A similar heart-shaped pendant, without the engraved symbol of Christ's wound, has been reported from Ashby cum Fenby, North-East Lincolnshire (NLM-894835). Lacking in the engraved motif, it was attributed to a modern period, but in the light of the Welsh find this should be reassessed.

The will of Sir Mathew Cradock of Swansea dated 22 January 1529, includes a list of the jewels his wife Lady Katherine had brought with her when they married, including 'a hert of golde', and 'a nother hart of golde wt a floure delyce of diamontes in hym and a peerle hanging by hym which was a noche (brooch) of our Ladye'. The fleur de lis was an emblem of the Virgin Mary (lily as symbol of purity), and if set into a sacred heart it linked the incarnation with redemptive sacrifice (assuming that the 'hert' referred to is not the animal; Grey 2013-14, 89). The Fishguard find focuses on the symbolism of redemptive sacrifice, and provides a tangible example of the type of jewel referred to in the will, although it might be of a slightly later date.

Date: While the pendant could be early sixteenth century, a date in the Marian counter-Reformation of the 1550s is also possible.


Bury, S. 1985, An Introduction to Sentimental Jewellery (London).

Gaimster, D., Hayward, M., Mitchell, D. and Parker, K. 2002, 'Tudor silver gilt dress-hooks: a new class of treasure find in England', Antiquaries Journal 82, 157-96.

Grey, M. 2013-14, ''The Property of a Lady' the jewels of Lady Katherine Cradock', The Swansea History Journal 21, 82-93.

Murdoch, T. 1991, Treasures and Trinkets. Jewellery in London from pre-Roman times to the 1930s (London).

TAR 2004, Treasure Annual Report 2004 (DCMS).

TAR 2005/6, Treasure Annual Report 2005/6 (DCMS).

TAR 2007, Portable Antiquities and Treasure Annual Report 2007 (British Museum, published 2009).

Thornton, D and Mitchell, D. 2003, 'Three Tudor silver dress-hooks', Antiquaries Journal 83, 486-491.

Class: heart-shaped pendant

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: National Museum Wales
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2012W23


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Subperiod to: Early
Date from: Circa AD 1500
Date to: Circa AD 1560

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Height: 30 mm
Width: 21.4 mm
Thickness: 5 mm
Weight: 7.27 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 19th September 2012

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Miss Wenke Domscheit
Identified by: Mr Mark Lodwick
Secondary identifier: Mr Mark Redknap

Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2012W23

Materials and construction

Primary material: Silver
Decoration style: Other
Completeness: Complete
Surface Treatment: Gilded

Spatial metadata

Region: Wales (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Pembrokeshire (Unitary Authority)
District: Pembrokeshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish or ward: Fishguard and Goodwick (Community)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SM9536
Four figure Latitude: 51.98453178
Four figure longitude: -4.98675713
1:25K map: SM9536
1:10K map: SM93NE
Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Gardening
Current location: National Museum Wales

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NMGW
Created: 4 years ago
Updated: 2 years ago

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