Anglo-Saxon gold spacer bead

Photo: Northamptonshire County Council CC By SA2.0
Object type: Spacer bead
Period: Anglo-Saxon
Primary material: Gold
Date found: 01/09/2022
Location: South Northamptonshire


Half of a 7th century gold spacer bead. A similar piece would have been attached to the larger edge to form a bi-conical shape. They were used to separate pendants on ornate necklaces.

Desborough Necklace

The finest surviving necklace that used these beads is the Desborough Necklace.

Desborough necklace
Desborough Necklace
Photo: British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The necklace was found in 1876 by workmen digging for ironstone in fields near St Giles Church in Desborough, Northamptonshire. The necklace was found near the head of a female skeleton in one of the sixty graves at the site.

The workmen divided the various jewels between themselves and were only persuaded to return them in exchange for a reward.

It was purchased by the British Museum soon after. They describe it as “an alternating sequence of irregular gold and cabochon garnet pendants, gold ‘bulla’ pendants and biconical gold wire spacer beads. At the centre, flanked by small biconical beads, hangs an equal-armed cross“.

In 2016, a replica was made of the necklace and put on display at the Heritage Centre in Desborough.