A million year old commission

An interesting and unusual commission came my way recently. The husband of a member of the local clergy rang me and asked if I could create a pendant from a small fossil as a gift for his wife. When he brought the fossil to show me I was surprised to find that it was a small, very light object that resembled something man-made – perhaps a wooden counter from some ancient board game.

My client explained that it was known as a St Cuthbert’s Bead –  a million year old fossilised section of an ancient Crinoid plant stem.  The fossils’ coin-like appearance has also led to them being referred to, rather quaintly, as ‘fairy money’. They are found only on the beautiful Lindisfarne Island, the earliest site of Christianity, on the North East coast of England. St Cuthbert was a Mediaeval monk who lived and worshipped at the monastery during the second half of the 7th century, and legend has it that he and his followers found these tiny fossils on the seashore and strung them together to make rosary beads.

As well as setting the bead in silver, the commission was to incorporate a cross motif.  As the object felt so very delicate – like a tiny biscuit – I was quite nervous about applying pressure to it while encasing it in silver, however it turned out really well and I’m pleased to say my client was delighted with this thoughtful gift for his wife.

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