Silver through the Ages

To celebrate The Hunt Museum’s 25th Anniversary, learn about three silver objects from medieval to modern times.

Keywords: Silver, 25th Anniversary, Valentine's Day, Hunt Museum, Limerick, Elizabeth Woodville, Pery Family, Joseph Johns, Vikings, Medieval

Lucy Ward, Collections and Education AssistantLucy Ward, Collections and Education Assistant

3 mins to read

14 February, 2022

A silver brooch with a pointed pin, silver penannular ring and has two solid globular terminals with criss-cross brambled decoration.

Ball-type brooch | Silver | 9th or 10th century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD

Ball-type Brooch, 9th-10th century AD

Also called a ‘thistle brooch,’ this early medieval object gets its name from the distinctive decoration adorning its terminals. The design is thought to have originated in Ireland in the 9th century AD and several examples have been discovered in Munster. The design quickly spread throughout the Viking world and similar examples have been found in Scotland and Scandinavia. Such brooches would have been used to fasten heavy cloaks as symbols of power and wealth.

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A round silver container with conical lid and a small dog forming the hinge.

Woodville pyx | silver | 15th or 16th century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD

Woodville Pyx, 15th century AD

A pyx is a container used in the Catholic and Anglican churches to carry the consecrated host. The body of this silver pyx is inscribed with the names of the three kings or magi who visited Jesus Christ in Bethlehem: Jasper, Melchior and Balthazar. Its most notable decoration is a dog, thought to be a greyhound, adorning the hinge on top of the lid. This may be the symbol of Elizabeth Woodville (c. 1437 – 8 June 1492), queen consort of Edward IV from 1464 until he was deposed on 3 October 1470. A controversial choice of bride, Elizabeth was English (when kings were expected to marry for foreign alliances) and the daughter of a mere knight (when kings were expected to marry nobility). Two of her children are better known as The Princes in the Tower.

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A silver ladle lying diagonally with the bowl lying on the bottom right.

Soup ladle | Silver | 18th century AD | The Hunt Collection | PD

Soup Ladle, 18th century AD

This may, at first glance, appear to be just a simple soup ladle. However, this silver object was made in Limerick and has marks which reveal its connections to wider stories. First, it has the monogram M.P. on handle, possibly for a member of the Pery family. From the 17th century onwards, the Perys became one of Limerick’s most influential families; earls of Limerick from 1803, they are possibly best known for the development of ‘Newtown Pery’ in Limerick City centre from 1769 onwards [1][2].

Secondly, this ladle is marked II (twice), identifying the maker as Joseph Johns. Johns was Limerick’s “most accomplished, prolific and arguably most successful silversmith” [3][4]. Finally, it is also marked STERLING, indicating the purity and quality of the silver.

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[3] A Celebration of Limerick Silver, John Bowen & Conor O’Brien, pages 140 & 198



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