3 amazing Historica Auction star lots include Iron Age coin and Medieval falconry ring

Posted on 21/11/2019 in Press Coverage

A host of treasures, many found by metal detectorists, are going under the hammer on November 25, 2019 in a Historica and Metal Detecting Finds Auction at Hansons in Heage, Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire. Here, the salerooms' historica experts pick out three star lots.

  • Silver hawking vervel possibly attributable to John de Ravensholme, 14th to 15th century
  • Gold and rock crystal pendant in the shape of a scent bottle, c. 16th or 17th century
  • Gold quarter stater of the Regini. ‘Eye Star’ type, c. 60-50 BC

Silver hawking vervel

In the Medieval period, the sport of falconry (hunting by means of birds of prey) was a relatively common activity among the upper classes. There were strict rules of hierarchy on who could use what type of bird and, as they were valuable, it was important to be able to identify the owner of a bird in the event of it being lost. This led to the development of the hawking ring, or ‘vervel’, a sort of name-tag. They are effectively the Medieval and Post-Medieval equivalent of a pigeon ring.

The form of vervels varies somewhat, but most take the form of a flat ‘washer’ shape with an internal aperture. These were probably attached to the bird’s leash or ‘jesses’ that hung from its feet, though some vervels exist which would have been slipped onto the leg itself.

Inscribed on every vervel is information about the bird’s owner, sometimes solely naming the individual but at times also including their location. Conversely, some vervels only name the residence but not the individual concerned. Since it was mainly high-status people who engaged in falconry and ‘hawking’, these objects can often be tied to important individuals who feature prominently in the politics, scandals and significant historical narrative of the time.

The example being offered at Hansons bears the inscription ‘RAVENSHOLME’ in enlarged, Lombardic style script. Discovered by a metal detectorist near Compton, Surrey, research suggests it may refer to John de Ravensholme, a King’s Yeoman who in 1344 was given the manor of Pury in Hampshire, just a few miles away from the findspot. If this vervel did belong to him, or one of his children, it's likely to be one of the oldest examples in existence, being late 14th or early 15th century. Estimate: £300-£500

Gold and rock crystal 'scent bottle' pendant - 16th or 17th century

In 1912, workmen digging a cellar at 30-32 Cheapside, London, came across a treasure trove. They discovered a wooden box containing more than 400 pieces of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery buried somewhere between 1640 and 1666. The Cheapside Hoard - as it came to be known - was accessioned almost exclusively into the collections of the Museum of London.

But how is this relevant? Well, the third ‘star lot’ is of comparable quality and style to many pieces present in that hoard, representing a rare opportunity for the discerning collector to acquire a unique and extremely well provenanced item.

The object is a late 16th or early 17th century gold and rock-crystal pendant, shaped charmingly in the form of a contemporary scent bottle. Though time and the stresses of being in the ground have cracked the setting, this remains a significant piece. The presence of a ‘hinge’ at its base has led to speculation that this pendant may have functioned as a reliquary, perhaps containing some antique artefact of religious significance. Estimate: £800-£1,200

Gold quarter stater

The concept of coinage reached Britain very late, the first pieces being struck here from c. 150 BC onwards. However, despite this delayed start, British Iron Age coinage in many respects takes the crown for the skill of its die-cutters, artistry and high quality of manufacture. Metal detectorists have contributed enormously to our knowledge in this regard, with new types being added to existing catalogues nearly every year.

The coin offered at Hansons is only the second of its type known to exist. Named as the ‘Eye Star’ type by Dr John Sills in his schema and subsequently attributed to the Regini of West Sussex and East Hampshire, this coin represents a fusion of local and continental coin designs. This demonstrates the degree of contact present between Iron Age Britons and their Continental relatives.

The obverse depicts an oblique wreath with a star and ‘eye’ motif below, while on the reverse is the design of a triple-tailed horse prancing right between its legs. The latter design, well attested in other pieces, is thought to have been struck by the Sussex Regini, such as the ‘Selsey Uniface’ type staters and the delightfully named ‘Bognor Cogwheel’ quarter stater. A beautifully designed and excessively rare piece, with great provenance. Estimate: £1,800-£2,200

The Historica auction catalogue is due to go live on November 15 at

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