Dodgy 17th century jeweller Thomas Sympson named as Cheapside Hoard fraud

By Culture24 Reporter | 10 October 2013

A “dodgy” 17th century jeweller who dealt in lucrative fake jewels and owned a home above the site where the Cheapside Hoard was found has been named by the Museum of London as the fraudster responsible for two counterfeit items in the major exhibition devoted to the treasures.

The Museum of London is about to unveil plenty of treasures and a couple of fakes© Museum of London
Thomas Sympson sold balais rubies, cut from rock crystal before being polished and dyed to mimic the look of natural gems, for up to £8,000.

One of 18 jewellers identified as leasing a property at 30-32 Cheapside, where the hoard lay buried for nearly 300 years, Sympson’s family are also said to have received stolen goods snatched from Gerrard Pulman, another jeweller who was murdered on a ship between Persia and London in 1631.

“The 16th and 17th century jewellery trade was clandestine by its very nature,” rues Hazel Forsyth, the curator of the display which is expected to reveal much about the darkness of life in London during the 1600s.

“Skulduggery was rife. Jewellers couldn’t shout about what they were up to or the precious gemstones that they were dealing with. That in itself would make them walking targets for theft, corruption, or worse.

"Thank goodness some of those jewellers and their underhand dealings were caught out and made to feel the long arm of the law.

“The level of detail found in contemporary court documents, witness statements and other archive material has proved a veritable treasure trove to delve into.

“It has brought about many juicy findings that we would not have known about had the trade been transparent and squeaky clean."

Buried between 1640 and 1666, the glittering set of nearly 500 pieces is being shown for the first time since it was unexpectedly discovered in 1912.

  • The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels is at the Museum of London from October 11 2013 – April 27 2014, sponsored by Fabergé, Gemfields and Coutts and supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

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