Glittering History of Scottish Gold

An exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery considers Scotland’s fascinating relationship with gold.

Collar of the Order of the Thistle made for Queen Victoria, 1837. Image courtesy Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Collar of the Order of the Thistle made for Queen Victoria, 1837. Image courtesy Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Gold flakes and masses of gold in quartz ©The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2014
Gold flakes and masses of gold in quartz ©The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2014

Scottish Gold explores the use of gold in Scotland from the Bronze Age to the present, looking at the history and cultural significance of the often valuable and highly sought-after precious metal.

Focusing on the occurrence of gold in Scotland and Scottish gold mining, the show covers the natural history of gold, the first use of gold coinage in Scotland and the infamous Darien disaster of the late 1600s.

A glittering array of the finest gold specimens and objects are brought together from the Hunterian collection and other institutions across the UK, including the British Museum and the Royal Collection in London.

Iron Age gold torc from the Law Farm hoard © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2014
Iron Age gold torc from the Law Farm hoard © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2014

Amongst the treasures gathered together are Queen Victoria’s gold collar of the Order of the Thistle; ‘cloth of gold’ from the tomb of Robert the Bruce; a miniature gold and enamel portrait and reliquary of Mary Queen of Scots; a multitude of Scottish gold coins including a bonnet piece of James V; Bronze and Iron Age gold torcs; a gold ampulla used at the Scottish Coronation of Charles I; the King’s Gold Cup from the Leith races of 1751 and ten of the largest gold nuggets found in Scottish rivers.

On display for the first time is an extremely rare 7th century Merovingian gold tremissis. The unique gold coin is the first of its kind ever to be found in Scotland and is thought to come from the Merovingian Royal Treasury. The Merovingian dynasty ruled much of modern France and Germany from the 5th to 8th century AD and is probably better known thanks to Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, which links them with the blood line of Jesus Christ. The gold tremissis would have started life in the Frankish kingdom and may have ended up in Scotland as a diplomatic gift from a visiting aristocrat. It would not have been used as money.

Alongside these historical pieces is contemporary work including an 18 carat solid gold quaich by Scottish goldsmith Graham Stewart and a Millennium gold medal produced by goldsmith Malcolm Appleby for the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

See: Scottish Gold
14 March – 15 June 2014
Hunterian Art Gallery, 82 Hillhead Street, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ
Open Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm
Admission £5/£3

 


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