A medieval pendant was purchased by a museum in England for $20,000 after a jeweler recognized its value when its owner tried to sell it as scrap gold.
The BBC reports that the pendant was found some 30 years ago in a garden in Dorton, Buckinghamshire, in southeast England. The owner took it to a jeweler to try to sell it for scrap gold when the jeweler identified it as quite old—and quite valuable. It was established to be more than 500 years old, dating from 1450 to 1500.
Because the pendant was found before the 1996 Treasure Act, it was made available for private sale and purchased by the Buckinghamshire County Museum for $20,000; the institution received grants for the purchase.
The pendant depicts a man in bishop’s robes on one side and the annunciation of the Virgin Mary on the other. The museum thinks the man in the bishop’s robes is Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in 1170 and was sainted three years later, and that the pendant was a souvenir of a pilgrimage to his tomb.
“Apart from the incredible level of skill of the craftsman who made it, it also tells us something about how important religion was to the lives of the people at that time,” said museum spokesperson Brett Thorn in an interview with the BBC. “To realize the fact that they would invest so much time and wealth in a tiny souvenir, which no one else would ever see, perhaps hoping for a miraculous cure, helps us understand them better.”