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The Fettercairn Jewel

The Jewel is oval in form with a scroll fastening at the top to hold a gold ring. It would have been worn as a pendant on a chain and probably had a pearl or precious stone hanging beneath it. The image on the reverse centres on the figure of Mercury, wearing a winged helmet and striding from left to right. To the right of Mercury’s feet sits a white dog looking upwards, and to the left a vase containing a striking arrangement of vibrant flowers. An urban scene sits in the background, with an array of exotic and domestic birds and insects flying over clusters of buildings.

A 16th Century Gold Locket from the Scottish Renaissance, © National Museums Scotland

  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    Teacher notes
    • This beautiful and colourful locket makes our modern day jewelry look rather plain. It's intricate detailing shows the skill of the Scottish craftsman who made it.

      If you hover your mouse over the image you'll be able to look really closely at all the detail. We are actually looking at the back of the locket here, on the front there is a large red jewel, probably a Garnet which are thought to have healing properties.

      In the centre of the oval you can see the god Mercury, he is the god of messengers, poets, merchants and travellers. Surrounding him is a beautifully ellaborate scene with a white dog possibly to symbolise fidelity (faith in someone or something), and a vase of flowers including wild roses and violets.

      This locket was recently acquired by the National Museums Scotland and lots of people have been very excited about it. Although we don't know everything for certain yet it was probably given as a gift within the Scottish court. Researchers at the museum are also currently investigating a possible royal connection.

      You can see more images of the locket and a similar jewel on the National Museums Scotland website.

      Things to think about:
      • Can you think of any other pieces of jewelery that are this intricate?
      • Who do you think might have worn this locket? Can you draw a picture of them?
      • Why might someone have given this as a gift?
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