Austrian man finds medieval jewels in his backyard

Medieval brooch found in Austrian backyardIn another happy story of someone putting historical value above personal wealth, an Austrian man has found 200 pieces of centuries-old jewelry in his backyard in Wiener Neustadt, south of Vienna, the Austrian Federal Monument Agency (BDA) announced Friday. He was digging to expand a pond in his garden in 2007 when he came across hundreds of these pieces that were encrusted with moist clumps of earth. He put them in a box in the basement and forgot about them for a couple of years.

When he came across them again while packing up his belongings after selling his house, some of the dirt had dried up and fallen off, revealing the presence of precious metals and gems. He cleaned them further with common household cleansers (don’t try this at home, kids) and posted pictures of the jewels on the Internet. Collectors told him they could be very old and valuable. An amateur archaeologist encouraged him to report the discovery to the BDA, so he packed them in a plastic bag and brought them to the Monument Agency.

Austria’s department in charge of national antiquities said the trove consists of more than 200 rings, brooches, ornate belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates and other pieces or fragments, many encrusted with pearls, fossilized coral and other ornaments. It says the objects are about 650 years old and are being evaluated for their provenance and worth.

While not assigning a monetary value to the buried bling, the enthusiastic language from the normally staid Federal Office for Memorials reflected the significance it attached to the discovery.

“Fairy tales still exist!” it said its statement. “Private individual finds sensational treasure in garden.”

It described the ornaments as “one of the qualitatively most significant discoveries of medieval treasure in Austria.”

The monetary value will only be assessed after all the research on provenance and materials has been done, but the finder, who wishes to remain anonymous, has no intention of selling. He wishes to make this beautiful and historical cultural patrimony available to the public.

Many of the jewels will be presented to the public on May 2 in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace complex, the official residence of the President of Austria, the seat of government, and a museum showcasing imperial Hapsburg history.

Belt buckle with pearl inlaymedieval ringBelt buckle with figural representation


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Comment by Mr. Murphy in VA
2011-04-27 07:28:27

This posting brings to mind how the British handle the antiquities discovered in England. The focus there seems to be on preserving artifacts for the common good, while ensuring that the finder is properly compensated. This example from Austria seems to indicate that no such laws exist there–with the obvious consequences. There it seems that some guy can keep national treasures in a box and then years later lend them out for viewing.

Comment by Grrrr
2011-04-27 21:46:44

Pretties… :)

Comment by LadyShea
2011-05-03 12:22:48

Very lovely. I am interested in their provenance and age, because the style is not immediately recognizable to me. The hexagon ring with the 4 cabochon amethysts (?) has an almost modern feel to it. If it weren’t for the asymmetry and irregularity of the lapidary it could be at any mall store today.

Comment by livius drusus
2011-05-04 12:08:52

Agreed, and even the inconsistencies could easily be found in modern designs handmade by individual artists. I’m keeping my eye open for additional news stories with more information and images from the Hofburg exhibit. There’s a little more info and a teeny pic here and the same info with a different pic here, but not much else yet.

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