This pendant was believed to have prophylactic (protective) powers. Similar pendants can be seen in paintings, but surviving examples are rare.
The backs of the gemstones are left open, rather than closed as was usual in this period. This was to allow the medicinal or magical properties of the gems to be transmitted to the skin of the wearer. Magical inscriptions on the reverse added to their power.
England, about 1540-60
Gold with enamel, hessonite garnet, peridot
and sapphire drop
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Jane Seymour wears a similar pendant directly against her skin. This direct contact may have been thought to maximise the pendants protective properties.
She was the third wife of Henry VIII and died in 1537 after giving birth to the future King Edward VI.
England, about 1536-7
By Hans Holbein the Younger
Oil on panel
Gemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
This drawing, showing a similar pendant, belongs to an album from the workshop of Arnold Lulls. First recorded around 1585, Lulls later supplied the court of James I and his queen, Anne of Denmark. He died in 1621.
The survival of this drawing from the 1560s and evidence from portraits demonstrate that fashions in jewellery could continue over a long period. Often, the only clue to a precise date of a jewel lies in the details of its decoration.