700 year old, exquisite, golden seal discovered by detectorist in Banburyshire

A beautiful gold and jasper seal has been found by a detectorist beneath the ground near Epwell.
The beautiful gold and jasper seal shown from three directionsThe beautiful gold and jasper seal shown from three directions
The beautiful gold and jasper seal shown from three directions

The small, golden seal - about the size of a thumbnail - was declared treasure and has been bought for the public at a cost of £25,000.

A special event is to be held in Epwell to welcome the seal 'home' this summer.

Oxfordshire museums services manager, Carol Anderson said: "The seal was found by a metal detectorist working in the parish of Epwell in 2015. They reported it to the Portable Antiquities Scheme as a probable treasure find.

"The Oxfordshire coroner declared it to be treasure and it was offered to the Oxfordshire Museums Service, subject to us raising the funds necessary to purchase it once the value had been established by an independent panel of experts.

"As the seal falls within the Museum Service’s Collecting Policy, we expressed interest in purchasing it and then set about the task of raising the money. Eventually we raised the funds necessary and the object is now in the care of the County Museums Service."

Art Fund - a charity which raises funds to help acquire artworks for the nation - describes the seal as 'medieval craftsmanship of the highest quality'.

In its quarterly magazine the charity describes the seal matrix as oval with a dark green, jasper intaglio in the centre. (Intaglio is a print-making technique using carving)

The jasper has been carved with the profile of a woman's head. She is wearing a veil with pearls or curls of hair around the forehead, the magazine says. The gold surround has a 'personal legend' in Latin which translates as 'secret seal of Hen', which may be short for Henry. Art Fund's experts believe the seal would have been carved in Paris or London.

The back of the seal has a gold loop which would have been attached to a chain to be worn around the neck or linked to a belt. The magnificent piece is a symbol of the wealth, status and power of its owner.

Oxfordshire museum service holds three other medieval personal seals but none as exquisite in terms of quality and condition.

The cost of buying the seal for the county museums was covered through grants from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund which gave £8,000, Art Fund £8,000, Headley Trust £6,000 and Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum who gave £3,000.

"The plan is to take the seal to Epwell, probably in June and to organise an afternoon of talks and activities to celebrate its ‘return home’, the idea being that the first people to see it will be members of the community where it was found," said Ms Anderson.

"Subsequently it will go on display at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, accompanied by another ‘event’ and it's possible that at some stage it may also go on display for a time in Banbury Museum but that is yet to be confirmed."

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