A gemmological study of the reliquary crown of Namur, Belgium

Bruni, Yannick; Hatert, Frédéric; George, Philippe; Cambier, Hélène; Strivay, David

The reliquary crown, hosted in the diocesan museum of Namur, was produced during the beginning of the 13th century to shelter a fragment of the holy crown of thorns. This beautiful piece of goldsmithery is made of eight gold plates, topped by round lobes, and connected to each other by hinges blocked with a pin decorated by a pearl. The crown is decorated by filigrees, flowers, and approximately 400 pearls and coloured (green, reddish pink, turquoise, red, blue) stones showing simple cutting with various sizes and shapes. Raman and portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (pXRF) techniques have been used to determine the nature and sources of all samples, as well as the composition of filigrees. Analyses have identified emeralds from Pakistan, reddish pink spinels from Tajikistan, red almandine garnets from India, turquoise from Iran, blue sapphires from Sri Lanka or Myanmar, and European pearls. The filigrees contain approximately 86 wt % Au, 7 wt % Ag, and 7 wt % Cu, thus confirming a gold-rich composition. The gemstones, contemporary with the crown, probably arrived in Europe by the silk trade road.

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Bruni, Yannick / Hatert, Frédéric / George, Philippe / et al: A gemmological study of the reliquary crown of Namur, Belgium. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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