Jewellery: The Human Story

27th July 2019 – 16th February 2020

*Please note, this exhibition has now closed*

From Bronze Age torcs to modern bling, people have adorned themselves with jewellery for thousands of years. What hidden stories do these objects hold and why do we still choose to express ourselves in this way? 

We have brought together objects from collections across the region to reveal the jewellery worn by the people of Essex through time. Meet modern makers and local people to discover the inspiration and personal stories of love, friendship, loss and status behind the jewellery we wear.




We have a fun packed programme of events for all ages running alongside Adorn. From creative craft to our exciting new escape room, we are expanding our usual programme to include a wide range of exciting new activities.

Why not look inside our events brochure to see what’s on?

Your Stories

Adornment continues to be important to many of us today, so we asked local people to share the stories behind their jewellery and tattoos.

Do you have any jewellery or tattoos with an interesting story behind them? You might end up featuring in the exhibition…

Meet the Makers

Adorn features the work of six jewellers who either live, work in or are inspired by the county of Essex. The range of jewellery on display reflects contemporary and historical themes. The makers have chosen materials and techniques to create a variety of dramatic effects, both modern and traditional in style.

Behind the Scenes

Throughout Adorn we will be showcasing the hidden stories behind the creation, curation and design of the exhibition. Caroline Lawrence, author of The Roman Mysteries series, provides a first glimpse into the magical nature of some of the exhibition’s Roman jewellery.

Our blog

Museum staff share some of the stories behind the exhibition in our blog series. From favourite objects to conservation challenges, find out more about what goes in to the making of a museum exhibition. 

Not to Miss

Adorn showcases over 200 objects exploring our fascination with jewellery from over 3000 years of history. If you’re making a visit, make sure you don’t miss our top objects.

Family Fun

Family visitors to Adorn can explore the exhibition with one of our Explorer backpacks. Each backpack has a different theme, creating a different challenge for each visit. Take a break from your museum visit in our story corner and read a book with your little ones. 


We are looking for volunteers to support our Visitor Services team during Adorn. Duties include welcoming visitors and giving short talks about some of the objects on display, as well as gathering feedback. Click the button below to sign up! 

Your Stories


Adorn: Jewellery the Human Story covers almost 4000 years of changing fashions in jewellery. From gold earrings worn by wealthy Roman women to the devotional rings of medieval Christians, the desire to express ourselves through the objects we wear has remained the same. 

Nowadays personal adornment is not just limited to jewellery, the rise in popularity of tattoos and piercings has provided another way for people to adorn themselves. We decided to ask local people to share the stories behind their jewellery and tattoos. 


Meet the Makers


Sabine Brauns  

Now living in Colchester, Sabine was born in Germany and trained as a jeweller in a small workshop in Düsseldorf. She moved to London in 1989, and then Essex in 2000.  

Sabine’s work is inspired by organic and geometric shapes, which she creates in both silver and gold.  



Charlie Leftley 

Charlie began her artistic studies at Colchester Institute and went on to train at Sir John Cass College in London, where she gained a degree in Silversmithing, Jewellery and Allied crafts. For the work on display in Adorn, Charlie has used traditional techniques to explore themes such as strength, delicacy, the microscopic, and the lines of life (fingerprints, wrinkles) through form. 



Lynn Powell 

Lynn was born and raised in Colchester. She is a self-taught maker who started off creating beaded jewellery. She now uses the chainmail technique to create patterns in her jewellery by using different sized rings and wire gauges.  



Lucy Quinn 

Lucy first came to Essex 14 years ago and now runs her own jewellery business ‘Harvey & Quinn’ from her home in Saffron Walden. 

For the ‘filigree’ collection, she has taken inspiration from vintage buttons to create a series of pieces that are both nostalgic and classic. 



Holly Stant 

Holly was born and raised in Colchester and completed a degree in Contemporary Jewellery at Rochester University in 2018.  

For the ‘home’ collection, Holly has responded to maps and locations of Colchester. Her work utilises drawing and collaging techniques to test how different shapes, colours and symbols fit together. 



Emma Turpin 

Emma graduated from Middlesex University with a degree in Jewellery and now runs her own business from her home in Quendon, Saffron Waldon. She also co-manages a jewellery school on the Essex/Hertfordshire border. 

The ‘Maidens Garlands’ collection is inspired by traditional crafts and folklore. Emma uses a variety of materials including gold, silver, shell and quartz to create wearable pieces of art. 


Not To Miss

Adorn showcases over 200 objects exploring our fascination with jewellery from over 3000 years of history. If you’re making a visit, make sure you don’t miss these top objects:


The Woodham Walter Hoard

Find me in ‘Prehistoric Gold’

These fragments of twisted gold are nearly 4000 years old, the same age as the Pyramids. They are believed to be unfinished torcs – neck rings – that were worn by powerful people in the Bronze Age. The fragments can clearly be seen to have been ‘chopped up’ and we can only fathom why such a prized object would have been destroyed and hidden within the ground.

Roman Jet Medusa Pendant

Find me in ‘Black Gold’

The Romans believed that the image of the monster Medusa was a powerful symbol, with her snake hair and gaze that could turn you to stone. This pendent depicting Medusa is carved from jet, a material the Roman believed held magical properties, worn as an amulet to attract, mesmerise and destroy evil powers. Excavated in Butt Road, Colchester, Essex. On loan from Colchester Archaeological Trust.

The Boss Hall Brooch

Find me in ‘Gold & Garnet’

This Anglo-Saxon brooch was found at Boss Hall, Ipswich. It is covered in gold and over a hundred pieces of cut garnet. It is one of the most richly decorated pieces of Anglo-Saxon jewellery from Britain. On loan from Ipswich Borough Council.

Two Roman inscribed intaglios

Find me in ‘Materials & Makers’

These intaglios, engraved stones, would have been set into the bezel of a ring and are made from blue stone. They depict satyrs, half-man half-goat creatures from Roman mythology. One was found in Colchester and the other near Heybridge, Essex. On the back of each intaglio the Greek names of their makers, Eusebius and Eutyches, are inscribed. These makers’ signatures are unique amongst Roman intaglios discovered from Britain.

Doris' Earrings

Find me in ‘Your Stories’

These earrings are an exact replica of a pair Doris fell in love with that belonged to a friend of hers. Her husband David, a Hatton Garden jeweller for many years, made a pair for her in white and yellow gold as a Christmas present.



Victorian mourning ring made from human hair

Find me in ‘Hoop & Bezel’

In the Victorian period people wore jewellery containing or made from the hair of a deceased loved one as a way of remembering them. The initials H.W. are inscribed on the brass clasp. 

Roman Gold Earrings

Find me in ‘Fashions of the Empire’

These Roman earrings were hastily buried when Queen Boudica attacked Colchester in AD 60. They are part of the ‘Fenwick Hoard’ discovered during the development of the Fenwick store in 2014. The earrings are almost identical to a pair found in Pompeii, Italy, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Excavated in High Street, Colchester, Essex.

The Cavenham Crown

Find me in ‘Power’

This copper alloy crown was found at Cavenham Heath, Suffolk, and is a very rare example of a late Roman head ornament used in religious ceremonies. It is displayed alongside a modern replica of what the crown may originally have looked like. On loan from Ipswich Borough Council.

The North-West Essex Ring

Find me in ‘Religious Gold’

This gold ring was discovered in Uttlesford, North-West Essex. It is engraved with a human figure holding a cross and two birds of prey, possibly representing the Norse God Odin. This intriguing mix of possible pagan and Christian imagery dates to a time when Christianity had only recently arrived in Britain. On loan from Saffron Walden Museum.

Claire's Necklace

Find me in ‘Your Stories’

This necklace, worn by Claire to her wedding, was made by one of her favourite jewellers, Bete Noire. Both Claire and her husband like skulls, plus the desire for colourful adornment meant a Mexican Day of the Dead theme seemed appropriate for their wedding day.

Roman Jewellery Podcast

Hear Senior Collections and Learning Curator, Glynn Davis in conversation with journalist, Ploy Radford. Glynn picks out some of his favourite objects from the Adorn exhibition and shares the stories behind them.

Exhibition information


27th July 2019 – 16th February 2020

*Please note, this exhibition has now closed*


Colchester Castle


This exhibition was included as part of Castle admission.


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