The Barbor Jewel


The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

According to a family tradition, this jewel was made for William Barbor (died 1586). He was a Protestant.The tradition, apparently first recorded in 1724, says that he wanted to commemorate his escape from the stake thanks to the accession of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). However, the style of the enamelling provides a date for the setting of about 1615-1625.

The tradition that this jewel was commissioned by William Barbor (1540-86) to commemorate his escape from being burnt at the stake as a heretic during the reign of Queen Mary was recorded by Gabriel Barbor in 1724. William Barbor may have owned the cameo of Elizabeth I, but the current setting dates from about 1615-25, suggesting that William’s family regarded the essential element in the jewel as the cameo, while the setting was changed to keep the jewel in fashion. Gabriel Barbor believed that William had laid down that the jewel was to descend to his eldest son, but only if he had a daughter and named her Elizabeth: ‘this is the account as it has been handed down from father to son, and hitherto there has always been an Elizabeth in the family’. The will of John Barbor in 1757 stated that the jewel should pass to his brother John, but, if he had no children, to his brother Richard. Richard’s daughter, Elizabeth, who had married Henry Prescott Blencowe in 1774 (information kindly provided by Sarah Jane Barber), inherited the jewel on her father’s death.

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  • Title: The Barbor Jewel
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1610/1625
  • Location: England
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 60 mm, Width: 31 mm, Depth: 10 mm
  • Provenance: Given by Miss M. Blencowe
  • Medium: Enamelled gold, set with an onyx cameo, rubies and diamonds, and hung with pearls

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