This pendant, shaped as a miniature altarpiece, would have been made as a focus for private prayer. Many people used jewels in their devotions, but only the wealthy would have owned a piece like this, skilfully worked in expensive materials.
In medieval jewellery colour was highly valued. The deep blue enamel on this pendant was difficult to apply and the technique complicated. Enamelled jewels were expensive and much prized.
Northern Germany, about 1450-80
Partially gilded silver and translucent enamel
The pendant would have come from a shop like this. As you can see, medieval goldsmiths shops, with their broad counters and showcases, were very like modern ones.
In the background, the lowest shelf displays large belt buckles, chains and pendants. The upper shelves show that the goldsmith also sold tableware made from silver or gilded silver.
From The Lapidary of Jean de Mandeville, about 1300-1400
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
The damaged area on this similar jewel provides a rare opportunity to learn more about the technique called basse taille enamelling.
In this technique, translucent enamels are fused over an engraved or chased pattern. The tool marks on the bottom of the cells holding the enamel are visible through the enamel. The textured pattern helps to ensure a strong bond between the glass and metal.