FOR the first time since it was renovated more than half a decade ago, Colchester Castle is hosting a new exhibition.

And Adorn: Jewellery, The Human Story has been painstakingly prepared over two and-a-half years.

Its curators have delved deep into the museum’s collections to find unique and extraordinary stories around the more than 200 historic items of jewellery featured.

Lead curator Glynn Davis said: “It’s hard to single out an individual object in this exhibition.

“Often museums choose a star object to focus the theme or narrative of their exhibition, but with Adorn I like to think we’ve chosen over 200 star objects. There are so many hidden stories behind these pieces of jewellery and some of the most fascinating objects are probably those whose stories have been lost to us.”

Adorn will see a number of historic Colchester finds return home from where they’re normally seen by millions every year at the famous British Museum.

Amongst them is a Roman gold ring with an engraving of emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, the first rulers to share power over the iconic empire.

Originally the ring would have been used as a seal and pressed into wax to authenticate documents. The wearer would have held high status in Roman society, and perhaps shared a personal connection with the imperial court.

Even more intriguing than the ring’s historic use though is the fact its size is more appropriate to have been worn for a woman or child.

A selection of artefacts from the Fenwick collection, a cache of Roman jewellery discovered beneath the floor of a house found during the excavation behind Fenwick’s in Colchester High Street, will also go on display.

The collection is widely regarded as one of the most important collections of Roman jewellery found in the UK.

Mr Davis continued: “The British Museum is loaning several pieces of Roman jewellery originally from Pompeii.

“When compared with the pieces from the Fenwick Treasure they give an insight into 2000-year-old fashions which travelled across the Roman empire.”

Neighbouring museums including Braintree, Saffron Walden and Epping Forest have chipped in and donated items for the show.

But Adorn isn’t just about the past.

Its Made in Essex section will explores six jewellery makers with close connections to the county.

Gazette: Jeweller Lucy Quinn in her workshopJeweller Lucy Quinn in her workshop

Their jewellery will be displayed alongside the historic museum pieces, giving visitors the chance to see the old and new side by side for the first time.

Taking the human stories behind the jewels even further will be Your Stories - where members of the public have contributed their own personal stories about jewellery or tattoos.

Tom Hodgson, Colchester Museums manager, said: “For many of the objects on display, we will never know what they meant to their owner.

“Asking the people of Colchester to share their own personal stories gives us an insight into why jewellery is still an important part of many people’s lives.

“Tattoos are another popular form of adornment, which often have hidden meanings. Their inclusion in the exhibition will hopefully emphasise how we have chosen to adorn ourselves creatively in such different ways over thousands of years.”

Adorn opens to the public for the first time at an exclusive launch party on July 26, from 7.30pm to 10.30pm.

Tickets cost £15 and can be booked by calling 01206 282941 to book. Visit


COLCHESTER’S three museums will be running a programme of fun-filled events to mark the opening of Adorn: Jewellery, The Human Story.

A special children’s party. Razzle Dazzle, opens on August 2 and youngsters are encouraged to dress up in their finery and will take part in party games.

With the exhibition as inspiration, the castle is also hosting a number of story-telling sessions throughout the summer, which are free with the price of entry.

Hollytrees Museum: Adorn Treasure Chests will give children the chance to have a go at amulet making and creating recycled jewellery.

The Natural History Museum, in High Street, will also see the return of the popular Go Live animal events in time for the summer holidays.

Tickets for Razzle Dazzle cost £5 per child after admission.

Events at Hollytrees and the Natural History Museum cost between £3 and £5.

Julie Young, councillor responsible for culture and performance, said: “As always, there is a tremendous amount of creative and engaging sessions for the children this summer – this year with an exciting Adorn theme.”

For more information, visit Events can be booked by calling 01206 282941.