Gold, Carnon Stream Works, Perranarworthal, Cornwall, England
Gold is a native element and precious metal which has been prized by mankind for thousands of years for its beauty, malleability and resistance to corrosion. This gold nugget is the largest known to have been found in Cornwall and weighs 1 oz t, 18 dwt. 6 grs. It was found in January 1808 in the Carnon Valley tin-stream works and bought by collector Philip Rashleigh in March of the same year. Rashleigh wrote in his Manuscript (112 Au): 'Native Gold found in Carnon Stream work in Cornwall weighs - 1 oz. 18 pw. 6 gr. Troy this piece has had all the extra matter picked out except a mite in one place the marks of many others remain. The smoothness of the piece shews the great time it has been washed by the water where it was exposed and the hollow parts more rough gives a proof of its not being manufactured'. In the ownership of Mr Wills, a silversmith from Truro, the find was reported in the Royal Cornwall Gazette on 6th February 1808 'this is unquestionably the largest and most beautiful specimen ever found in Cornwall, or probably in any other country'. The paper reported in March 1808 that Rashleigh purchased the specimen from Mr Wills. Mineral analysis undertaken in 2018 indicates that the gold content in the nugget is in the high 90s while other gold nuggets from the Carnon Stream Works, which were analysed, are around the 70s. As a result, it has been suggested that this gold nugget may have been refined and worked into a forgery by the silversmith who sold it to Rashleigh. Rashleigh Collection.
© RIC, photographer A.G. Tindle
Bronze Incense Burner (Koro), Japan
This incense burner dates from around 1800 and is in the form of a Chinese boy (karako) reading a book. Karako is a Japanese term meaning 'Chinese child'. It generally refers to Chinese children as they are portrayed in Japanese art, though the literal translation specifically references the 'Tang children' of the Tang Dynasty [AD618-907]. The figures usually appear to be boys, wearing sets of conventional Chinese clothing and with their hair shaved and/or knotted in the traditional Tang style of this time. Karako are divine beings in Japanese mythology. They embody the innocence and joy of childhood and, as such, are often portrayed in scenarios where they are playing. Other interpretations find that karako are used to symbolise the wish to have a male successor who will gain high social status and also as a benevolent symbol which brings luck, happiness and prosperity. Gift of Alfred De Pass.
© RIC, photographer Mike Searle
A seated figurine made from tin, with a little zinc. The figurine was found in 1853, three metres below the surface on Bodwen Moor, Lanlivery, Cornwall, near the site of an old smelting house or Jews' house. Hebrew characters are still visible, variously interpreted as signifying 'Rapacious Eagle' and 'Jehovah is our King'. Jewish settlers were involved in mining and smelting, especially following the Norman invasion of England and until their expulsion by King Edward I in 1290. When it was found, the figure was wearing a crown which was lost after it was taken to Lanhydrock House. The figure was gifted to the Royal Institution of Cornwall in 1948 by Lord Robartes of Lanhydrock. 13th century. Sculptor: Unknown.
© RIC, photographer Mike Searle