Goldsmiths Exhibit 4500 Years of Gold

With thoughts of sporting British Gold later this month edging ever closer, the story of Britain's history and relationship with this precious metal is told by The Goldsmiths' Company in a fascinating new exhibition entitled "Gold: Power and Allure".

Housed in the magnificent surroundings of Goldsmiths' Hall, London, the story of our love affair with gold starts with a chance discovery of ancient goldwork near Stonehenge. Dating back to 2300BC, it is thought that these ornaments are some of the earliest pieces of worked gold found in the UK. A series of Bronze Age and Early Iron Age torcs and crescent-shaped lanula neck pieces are also really quite beautiful.

Since then, gold has been actively mined throughout England and Wales, with gold for royal wedding rings today traditionally being made from Welsh Gold. In the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the exhibition includes a number of historic and royal items including gold crowns, brooches and a rather ghoulish gold ring, that was taken from the finger of the dead Queen Elizabeth I.

Coinage explores Britain's currency and its relationship with the Gold Standard, which was introduced by Sir Isaac Newton in 1816. With the Olympics weeks away, the sporting trophies on display include a number of Olympic medals from 1900 to 1912 that are made from pure gold. These particularly rare medals compare to today's Olympic Gold medals which are cast with 92.5% silver and just 1.34% gold.

Among the more unusual gold items in the exhibition is this delightful mechanical life-size mouse made in gold and decorated with red garnet eyes and pearls. Thought to be of Swiss origin by Henri Maillardet, and dating from around 1810, it was purchased from a London dealer by John and Josephine Bowes for the sum of £22 in 1871 for their museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham.

By far the cutest exhibit in the show, the mouse measures around 11cm and is believed to be one of less than ten in the world. Wound by hand, the clockwork mouse still runs around and twitches its whiskers!

The Gold: Power and Allure exhibition is open until 28th July 2012 at Goldsmiths' Hall, London and admission is free.