I love it when I discover fascinating jewellery in my travels when carrying out valuations. Recently I acquired some Thaler jewellery, which has a rich history and cultural significance.

Originating from Austria,  the Thaler coin, a silver coin used across Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries,  quickly became a standard currency throughout Europe due to its consistent weight and high silver content. It was valued for monetary worth and also for its intricate designs, which often featured the likeness of emperors, monarchs, and significant heraldic symbols.

The coin, about the same size as the old British crown, was used in the Middle East and Africa as tribal money and became fashionable strung on necklaces. The more coins that were on the necklace depicted the higher position in the tribe and became a bartering tool. The practice of using the coins in jewellery design became particularly prominent in regions such as Austria and German-speaking areas, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans. The coins were often set in intricate filigree work or combined with other precious metals and gemstones, transforming them into exquisite pieces of wearable art.

The stunning collection I viewed, which dated from the 18th century, featured anklets, bracelets and necklaces, which were surprisingly heavy. They were about to be put into auction by a local client who was a forensic archaeologist and had discovered these treasures when working in Africa where he had bought a mine.

Today, Thaler coin jewellery remains an intriguing collector’s item and a symbol of a bygone era.

Originally published in the Purbeck Gazette on 10th June 2024.