The images you'll see as you scroll down to the current text are all part of the story telling in my novel, Realms of Gold:Ritual to Romance.

Bianca Caldwell, pen name, Bianca Fiore, is a writer for an art magazine. In each of her monthly stories she describes an object used in ancient ritual.

The Staffordshire Hoard: Mystery Object

Three pieces of the Hoard have been identified as belonging to one object, but no one is sure what the object once was.

Conservators have discovered that three gold, garnet and enamel pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard which bore no immediately obvious relation to each other fit together to form a beautifully perplexing mystery object

The millefiori stud, a gold mount with a collar of garnets and a glass enameled checkerboard surface, has a rectangular hole on the under side surrounded by four smaller round holes. A small gold cylinder decorated with cloisonné garnets has a rectangular protuberance of silver on one end and four round holes. The cylinder’s tab A fits into the millefiori’s slot B perfectly, and the four holes on both pieces align.

On the bottom end, the cylinder has another set of four matching holes with a torn piece of silver plate in the center. That torn plate in turn matches precisely the torn silver in the center of an elaborate gold cloisonné garnet circular object . The silver plate in the middle was riveted to the gold circle by four rivets, same as the holes on the other two pieces. Those four rivet holes show up on the other side of of the circular object, too, so our mystery object has at least one more part.

(Aesopian interlude: as historian David Starkey noted at the time, this is why it’s so important to keep archaeological discoveries intact in their proper context. If the hoard had been broken up and sold to the highest bidder, those pieces could have been scattered to the four corners of the earth.)

As for what it might have been used for, researchers have proposed several possibilities.

The Staffordshire Hoard: Gold and Garnet Objects

Gold and garnet bird of prey from the Staffordshire Hoard


The Staffordshire Hoard: Gold and garnet sword pyramid with figures of birds.

Closeup of garnet object from Staffordshire Hoard showing foil backing

Gold zoomorphic mount

The Staffordshire Hoard: Millefiori stud

This small stud, surrounded by gold and garnets, is a great example of early work with millefiori. Millefiori means 'One thousand flowers'.

Millefiori is an early glasswork technique, which was also found in the Sutton Hoo haul.

It is likely that the millefiori stud would have decorated a larger item.

You can see the intricately patterned gold foil that backs the garnets here! Millefiori stud

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The Staffordshire Hoard: Sword pyramid

The Staffordshire Hoard is remarkable for the extraordinary quantity of sword fittings. Most are of gold and many are beautifully inlaid with garnets.

Such elaborate and expensive decoration would have marked out the weapon as the property of the highest echelons of nobility.

The discovery of a single sword pyramid is a notable event - to find several pairs together is absolutely unprecedented.

The sword pyramid is one of a pair. These pyramids are hollow inside, with a bar across the opening rather like on a belt buckle.

Pyramids like this have been found in a number of Anglo-Saxon graves, lying beside sword scabbards. The pyramids would have adorned a leather strap that would have been attached to a scabbard (which is a cover for a sword).  Straps like this are mentioned in the Viking sagas, where they are called ‘peace bands’. They could be tied around the handle of the sword, securing it in place in the scabbard so warriors were not able to draw their swords suddenly in anger.

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The Staffordshire Hoard: Seax hilt plate

The Old English word seax is used to describe a wide variety of single-edged knives. These range from the small knives people wore at their belt and used for eating and other everyday purposes to long versions that were essentially short, single-edged swords.

Most seaxes had quite plain handles, but this hilt fitting from the Staffordshire Hoard must have belonged to a truly spectacular knife. It is made of solid gold and decorated with a beautifully worked pattern of interlaced animals. These are largely  made up from very small pieces of garnet, but scientific analysis carried out on this object in Paris late last year revealed that the animals’ eyes are actually tiny little globules of red glass.

The sword hilt plate features style II zoomorphic decoration. The plate is lozenge shaped, with a central hole mirroring the cross section of the seax blade. A seax blade has one cutting edge and a flat back to the blade, rather like a modern carving knife.

At either edge of the hilt plate are two small holes originally for fixing the plate in place. Both are encircled by a fine beaded gold wire, which appears to have been laid over matching circles incised in the underlying gold sheet. One of the circles has been deformed by this line, which can be clearly seen.

The pin or rivets which originally held the plate in place using these holes are unfortunately missing.

The rest of the upper surface of the hilt plate is filled with a running pattern of interlinking animals, each holding the leg of the animal in front in its mouth. The animals are recorded as belonging to style II decoration.

There are four such animals to each side of the central blade hole and both sets of four are facing in the same direction, that is with heads pointed towards the cutting edge of the blade.

The edges and underside of the hilt plate are flat and undecorated.

The Staffordshire Hoard

This mysterious piece, almost four inches long, uses the same principle as the brake lights of modern cars: The wafflelike texture of the gold under each garnet increases the gem's reflectivity.

Photograph by Robert Clark

All artifacts owned by: Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery; Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

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The Staffordshire Hoard: Gold Buttons and Pendant

Photograph by Robert Clark
All artifacts owned by: Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery; Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Buttons of gold and garnets probably attached a scabbard to a belt. Precious materials and exquisite craftsmanship may offer a clue to the treasure's significance. "We suspect it's royal loot," says Kevin Leahy. "Who else would have collected such things?"

A pyramid-shaped pendant decorated with garnets is encrusted with dirt. Conservators gently clean such pieces with pyracantha thorns so as not to scratch the gold.

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The Staffordshire Hoard: Crowning Glory

Art by Daniel Dociu; Artifact re-creations source: Kevin Leahy, Portable Antiquities Scheme

An artist's vision of a helmet from the time of the treasure. Probably padded with horsehair or wool, the helmet cap was made of hammered iron for protection from slashing or thrusting blades. It could have included two pieces found in the hoard: an intricately worked cheek panel and a horse's head, the decorative end of a crest, perhaps of horsehair.

Helmet crest

Photographs by Robert Clark

A second piece found in the hoard—an intricately worked cheek panel—may also have been part of the helmet. 

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