The Valance Casket, about 1290-1324. Museum No. 4-1865

The Valance Casket, about 1290-1324. Museum No. 4-1865

The Valance Casket
England or Limoges, France
About 1290-1324
Copper-gilt and champlevé enamel
Width 17.6cm x height 8.8cm
Museum No. 4-1865

This casket is testament to the importance of heraldry in society at this time. It bears the arms of the Valence family who were Earls of Pembroke, as well as arms of the Royal house of England, the Dukes of Brittany, the families of Angoulême, Brabant and Lacy. These highlight the significance of national and international relationships between aristocratic families at this time. The casket may have belonged to Aymer de Valence who died in 1324, or to his father William.

The use of enamel on metalwork increased from the late 1200s, as did the use of heraldic ornament to identify noble families. Enamel was the only way colour could be permanently fixed to metal, and colour was crucial to representing heraldic devices.