A remarkable gold pendant on a chain — associated with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon — has been unveiled by the British Museum. The beautiful, ornate item was discovered by a metal-detectorist in Warwickshire.

He reported it to the local Finds Liaison Officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme employed by Birmingham Museum Trust, who in turn contacted Historic England. We carried out an archaeological excavation at the site, to better understand the relationship between the find and its location. No other finds were discovered during this investigation.

Striking 16th century pendant

The gold, heart-shaped pendant is attached to a 75-link gold chain via an enamelled ‘hand’.

The front of the pendant is decorated with a red and white Tudor rose motif entwined with a pomegranate bush, the symbols of Henry and Katherine. These stem from the same branch, which at its base has a tail, and sits above the inscription + TOVS + IORS — a pun on the French for ‘always’.

The back shows the letters H and K — for Henry and Katherine — in Lombardic script, linked by ribbon, again with the legend + TOVS + IORS.

Analysis dates the pendant as early 16th century, from 1509-1533 AD with a most likely date of around 1521.

It appears that the pendant was produced rapidly; it may have been used as a prize or worn by people participating in an event. The design of the pendant is like that used on horse bards at a joust in Greenwich in 1521.

It is being showcased by the British Museum to highlight the launch of two annual reports — the Treasure Annual Report for 2020 and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Annual Report for 2021.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS)

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) records archaeological finds discovered by the public to advance knowledge, tell the stories of past communities and further public interest in the past.

This scheme is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (in England) grant-in-aid to the British Museum.

The reports show that 45,581 archaeological finds were recorded, including 1,085 Treasure cases, highlighting the massive contribution that members of the public are making to archaeological knowledge.

Most of these finds (96%) have been found by people metal detecting, where most of the finds are made on cultivated land.

The counties recording the most PAS finds in 2021 were Gloucestershire (8,113), Suffolk (4,676) and Lincolnshire (4,247). There were significant numbers also recorded in Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Kent, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, and North Yorkshire.