The Metalwork collection contains over 45,000 examples of decorative metalwork, silver and jewellery ranging in date from the Bronze Age to the present day. It includes the national collection of English silver, an outstandingly comprehensive jewellery gallery, and collections of ironwork, continental silver, arms and armour, medieval champlevé and late 19th-century enamels, brasswork, pewter and medieval metalwork of international importance.
Metalwork in the Archive of Art & Design
The Archive of Art and Design's holdings for metalwork offer an insight into its use in an everyday setting. There are presentation drawings of hand-forged wrought iron gates and railings produced by Hyders Ltd along with their albums of designs and costings for furnishings such as candlesticks, firescreens, mirrors and cocktail cabinets. There is also a selection of photographs of delicately patterned personal items such as a hairbrush, a comb and a glove-stretcher by jewellery and metalwork designer William Snelling Hadaway.
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and often also contains lead or zinc. It is strong and durable but can also capture the fine, complex detail within a casting mould. The V&A holds in its collections a large number of bronze objects, including a group of sculptures donated by Auguste Rodin.
Silver objects in the V&A range from a third-century Roman ointment pot, to a sixteenth-century Mexican perfume burner, to a table centrepiece created in 2012 by Miriam Hanid. The Museum holds the National Collection of English silver, and has strong collections of European silver, particularly from Spain and Germany. Among these objects are some extraordinary survivals. An English incense holder and censer made around 1325 for the monks of Ramsey Abbey were discovered in the mud of a drained lake in Huntingdonshire, while an exquisite frame made for Louis XIV of France is the only surviving work of royal goldsmith Pierre Germain.
The V&A has one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of jewellery in the world. Over 3,000 jewels tell the story of jewellery in Europe from ancient times to the present day; from a great gold Celtic breastplate to medieval love rings and pendants given by Elizabeth I to her courtiers; from jewels by Cartier to animals by Fabergé; and jewellery by an international selection of contemporary makers.