History Podcasts

The Sutton Hoo Great Gold Buckle

The Sutton Hoo Great Gold Buckle


Sutton Hoo buckle.

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Sutton Hoo: Discovering the face of history

In the summer of 1937, a town fete was held in Woodbridge in Suffolk. There were floral displays, a cricket match, a concert, and, according to the posters proudly advertising the event, a ‘balloon competition’. In other words, there was absolutely nothing unusual or noteworthy about this quaint, community event. Yet the Woodbridge Floral Fete would indirectly change our entire view of British history, and yield historical riches beyond imagining.

It was here that a local woman named Edith Pretty got chatting with a local historian named Vincent Redstone. The conversation turned to her property, Sutton Hoo, a short distance from Woodbridge. Specifically, some interesting looking mounds on the estate. Might they conceal something more than mere earth, Mrs Pretty wondered?

In her early 50s, Edith Pretty was a worldly woman with a life-long fascination for history. The daughter of a rich Victorian industrialist, she’d travelled the world in her younger years, embarking on Egyptian expeditions and spending one Christmas Day at the Taj Mahal. Like many wealthy types of her era, she also had an interest in spiritualism and supernatural phenomenon. According to one popular story, Edith (or perhaps a friend of Edith’s) said she’d had a vision of ghostly figures of spear-holding soldiers marching over the land of Sutton Hoo, triggering her interest in the mounds and what they might contain.

Incredible treasures had been buried with this ship, including a sword and a gold belt buckle

That conversation at the Woodbridge Floral Fete set a chain of events into motion, with Vincent Redstone contacting his colleagues about Sutton Hoo. A self-taught Suffolk archaeologist and astronomer called Basil Brown was eventually commissioned to start delving into the estate. Brown was presumably intrigued at the possibilities of the estate, but he could never have anticipated excavating an immense ship-burial, every bit the equal of the great Viking ship-burials. The ship itself – like the body it had contained – had long since dissolved in the acidic soil, but Brown was able to carefully reveal its distinct shape, which showed it to have been 27 metres long. Incredible treasures had been buried with this ship, including a sword and a gold belt buckle featuring an intricate lattice of interwoven snakes. But it was on 28 July 1939 that the diggers found what would become the single most iconic Anglo-Saxon artefact of all time: the Sutton Hoo helmet.

Except, the helmet was not a helmet when it was found. The ship-burial had evidently caved in at some point, shattering the artefact into hundreds of pieces. The diggers had an immensely complex jigsaw puzzle on their hands, but the hard work of piecing the helmet back together would pay off. Like the other precious items in the burial, the helmet is extravagantly decorated, and has the quality of an optical illusion. At first glance, the visage depicts a face, complete with a moustache, nose and eyebrows. But a closer inspection reveals these features actually make up a parallel image of a dragon in flight, with the moustache as its tail, the nose as its body, and the eyebrows as its wings. The eyebrows are also capped on either side by small, ominous boars’ heads.

The helmet is emblazoned with enigmatic scenes, including panels depicting dancing warriors. Its elaborate design, and the presence of the other riches in the ship-burial, mean that it very likely belonged to a highly important Anglo-Saxon figure of the 7th Century. The prime suspect is Rædwald, King of East Anglia, whose life and reign are shrouded in mystery. There’s a frustrating lack of first-hand sources from his era, partly due to Viking invaders causing the destruction of monasteries containing tell-tale documents. One valuable surviving source is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which was composed in the 8th Century by the Benedictine monk known as the Venerable Bede. His writings are considered one of the most crucial treasure troves of information on the Anglo-Saxons.

While the helmet displays decorative flourishes that may reference the great Norse deity Odin, other objects in the burial have cross-shaped engravings

Thanks to Bede, we know Rædwald converted to Christianity, although he also permitted pagan worship to continue in his kingdom and personally kept two altars – one Christian and one pagan, in his temple. Tellingly, this religious dichotomy is reflected in the discoveries at Sutton Hoo. While the helmet displays decorative flourishes that may reference the great Norse deity Odin, other objects in the burial have cross-shaped engravings, while a pair of silver spoons are marked with the names ‘Saulos’ and ‘Paulos’ – possible references to the Biblical story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

We also know that Rædwald was a warrior-king, who fought against the forces of a rival Anglo-Saxon monarch in what is known as the Battle of the River Idle around the year 616 – a confrontation that saw Rædwald’s own son slain. Rædwald himself is thought to have died around 624 – and potentially buried with the ship at Sutton Hoo.

Whether or not you believe the helmet belonged to this long-dead monarch, its significance goes beyond a connection to any one man. The face of the Sutton Helmet is the face of Anglo-Saxon England itself, gazing back at us across the gulf of centuries. And we might never have known about it if it wasn’t for that conversation at a town fete in 1937.


Sutton Hoo Hoard

Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, is the site of two cemeteries from the sixth and early seventh centuries.

One cemetery contained an undisturbed ship burial, including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding archaeological significance, most of which are now in the British Museum.

The ship burial was discovered in May 1939 by Basil Brown, a self-taught Suffolk archaeologist who had taken up full-time investigations of Roman sites for the Ipswich Museum. He had been employed in 1938 by the landowner, Mrs Edith Pretty, to explore various mounds on her property, which had previously been investigated in 1860 without any significant discoveries having been made. The story of how Brown discovered this amazing treasure trove is told in a slightly fictionalized form in the 2021 Netflix film, The Dig.

When the nature of the find became apparent, the detailed archaeological work was taken over by national experts and, following a six-year hiatus due to the outbreak of the Second World War, has continued ever since, particularly in the late 1960s and late 1980s, when the wider site and many individual burials were explored. The whole site was donated by Mrs Pretty to the British Museum in 1939, just three years before her death.

The ship burial is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England. The most significant artefacts from the site were found in the burial chamber, including a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a shield and sword, a lyre and many pieces of Byzantine silver plate. The most famous item is undoubtedly the iconic helmet which was selected as object 47 by Neil MacGregor in his landmark radio series on BBC in 2010: A History of the World in 100 Objects.

But from the perspective of the gold market, perhaps the star of the show was the great gold buckle shown here. It is the most stunning of the items found both in terms of its beauty and the engineering expertise required to make it. The buckle is hollow and has a hinged back, forming a secret chamber, possibly for a relic. This buckle is a masterpiece of early medieval craftsmanship, made using over 400g of gold with an intricate decoration of intertwining creatures inlaid with niello (a black compound of sulphur with various base metals).


Wonders of Gold: Illuminating the Dark Ages

Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, is the site of two cemeteries from the sixth and early seventh centuries. One cemetery contained an undisturbed ship burial, including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding archaeological significance, most of which are now in the British Museum.

The artefacts, discovered in May 1939 by Basil Brown, included this great gold buckle – stunning both in terms of its beauty and the engineering expertise required to make it.

The discovery is dubbed by many as one of “the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time,” and has recently been immortalised in Netflix film ‘The Dig’, starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes.

What can this great gold buckle tell us about refining techniques available at the time? And what other items were found alongside it? Find out more about the Sutton Hoo Hoard here.


As with all St Justin products, this item comes with a lifetime guarantee. If there is a fault in the workmanship, we will repair or replace it free of charge. Simple.

Sutton Hoo Buckle – solid pewter buckle based on the “great” gold buckle found in the burial chamber at Sutton Hoo. For a 40mm belt.

Sutton Hoo in Sufolk, England, is the site of one of the most significant archaeological digs in British history. The ship burial produced the greatest collection of treasures ever discovered in the UK, and rewrote the early medieval history of England. Buried in a chamber, built into the centre of the ship, was believed to be King Rædwald of East Anglia, many precious artefacts of pottery, metalwork, gold and gems were uncovered.

The ‘Great’ Buckle – This pewter buckle is based on a gold buckle discovered in the ship’s chamber, known as the ‘great’ buckle as it weighed 412.7g.


Archaeologists You Should Know

Margaret Guido, also known by her earlier married name Cecily Margaret Piggott and her nickname “Peggy,” is known for her contributions to prehistory in the European Bronze and Iron Ages. She was instrumental in the work done at the Sutton Hoo archaeological site, which was recently featured in Netflix’s “The Dig.” Guido was a prominent Prehistorian and in addition to directing excavations produced dozens of specialist reports and several books.

We reached out to Mairi Davies and Rachel Pope to learn more about Margaret Guido’s life and work, and why they believe she is an archaeologist you should know.

Dr. Mairi Davies is Climate Change Manager at Historic Environment Scotland. Her doctorate is in the Iron Age of Eastern Scotland.

Dr. Rachel Pope is Senior Lecturer in European Prehistory at the University of Liverpool. Her area of specialty is Iron Age Europe.

Portrait of Mrs Cecily Margaret Piggott by Frank Griffith, painted in c.1938, (c) Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, England https://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/

What got you intrigued about Margaret Guido?

We both started our careers in archaeology in the 1990s and, as female undergraduates, found ourselves in a male-dominated discipline, which still told its history largely through recounting the careers of a linear succession of great white men. Discovering “Mrs. C.M. Piggott” through her hugely influential publications of her own later prehistoric hillfort excavations in Scotland in the 1940s and 1950s, we found the role model we were looking for. From there, we traced Peggy’s sixty years of archaeological research, under two names born Cicely Margaret Preston, she published under her married names of Piggott and then Guido. Often, it is difficult to disentangle the work of female archaeologists of this period from that of their archaeologist husbands. However, Peggy was publishing excavation reports under her own name from 1937 (at the age of 25) and this continued when she moved to Scotland with her first husband Stuart, to enable him to take up the Abercromby Chair of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. As Margaret Guido, following several years focusing on Italian archaeology, she became the leading expert on British and Irish glass beads, publishing her magnum opus on The Glass Beads of the Prehistoric and Roman Periods in Britain and Ireland in 1978. This was followed posthumously in 1999 by its companion volume on The Glass Beads of Anglo-Saxon England, c. AD400-700.

Detail of a photograph by E L Payne of the Sutton Hoo ship burial excavation , 1939, showing Peggy Piggott in the center, in typical excavation gear. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

Please share one anecdote that you see as representative of Guido and her work.

Peggy was already a well-regarded and experienced excavator when she arrived with her husband, Stuart Piggott, as a volunteer at Sutton Hoo (Suffolk, England), the site of a recently discovered seventh century ship burial. She had trained under Tessa Verney Wheeler and Mortimer Wheeler and obtained a diploma from the fledging Institute of Archaeology, which became part of University College London. Her first major publication, with W.A. Seaby, on the rescue excavation of an Early Iron Age site at Southcote (Berkshire, England) appeared in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society in 1937. That year, at the age of 25, she had also directed her first excavation, at the Middle Bronze Age barrow and urnfield cemetery at Latch Farm (Hampshire, England). She published the site the following year, adding significantly to the gazetteer of cremation urns known for the period. In 1938-39, she worked on The Prehistoric Society’s first research excavation at the Early Iron Age type-site of Little Woodbury (Wiltshire, England) under the direction of Gerhard Bersu. She is shown in the Sutton Hoo site photographs with short hair and wearing practical digging gear such as overalls and boots. It was Peggy who first struck gold, uncovering the two stunningly beautiful pyramidal mounts from a sword harness, exquisitely crafted in gold, garnet and glass. She can also be seen in site photographs excavating the great gold belt buckle. The contents of the burial and the photographic archive of the 1939 excavations are held at the British Museum in London.

Peggy Guido, (c) Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, England https://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/

What do you see as Guido’s chief achievements?

It was during the 1940s that Piggott was at the height of her productivity, producing an average of two publications each year – often for the UK journal Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, as well as for notable regional societies. During World War II, she directed numerous rescue excavations for the Ancient Monuments Department of the Ministry of Works, on sites commandeered for defense purposes. On the strength of her contribution to British Prehistory, Piggott was given the considerable honor of being elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1944 and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1946. In the later 1940s, Piggott began to focus on the Late Bronze Age and also started producing specialist artifact reports, in particular on Late Bronze Age metalwork, notably a comprehensive study of British razors. It is at this point too, that she began to develop her specialist interest in glass beads.

The Piggotts moved to Edinburgh after the War, with each keen to focus efforts on the Prehistory of Scotland. The Office of Works subsequently invited the Piggotts to begin excavating archaeological sites, and the two agreed to split prehistory between them, Peggy focusing on the later period. She began elucidating a sequence for Scottish prehistory, publishing in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland on a range of sites. Peggy was soon awarded funding by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to test the model of Iron Age settlement development in southern Scotland, in response to a Council for British Archaeology (CBA) policy statement regarding the misleading nature of settlement classification from surface remains: an early attempt to move settlement archaeology beyond typological study. In her upland excavations, with each site published in the same year it was excavated, she tested and refined the CBA model, providing a relative chronological framework for later prehistoric settlement in southern Scotland. In the days before radiocarbon dating, this was a huge leap forward for British prehistoric studies.

It is this period of Peggy’s career, between the late 1940s-early 1950s, that marks her out as one of our most important British prehistorians. She excavated no less than six hillforts, and her work in the field of hillfort studies is considered some of her most influential. Hownam Rings (1948) became the type-site for hillfort development, known as the Hownam Paradigm, which remains valid to this day. By the early 1950s, Peggy was already working towards what we now consider an understanding of everyday life in prehistory. It is in this work that we see the advent of modern settlement studies – through her excavation strategy, and her interpretative work on hillforts and roundhouses. After several years publishing on Italian archaeology, Peggy began researching glass beads, travelling to visit museum assemblages. She co-founded the Bead Study Trust in 1981, and the Peggy Guido Fund for research on beads. From the 1970s onwards, she produced dozens of specialist reports on beads. This research saw her driving a camper-van across Europe during the 1980s.

Finally, explain in 50 words (or so) why Margaret Guido is an archaeologist the public should know more about.

Guido was a highly-skilled and well-published archaeologist whose career spanned sixty years. She is one of the most important British prehistorians of the twentieth century, having produced as many as fifty works for British prehistory, in particular advancing the fields of Early-Middle Bronze Age burial traditions, Late Bronze Age artifact studies, Iron Age settlement studies, and glass bead research.

To learn more about Margaret Guido and her work, explore the following:

  1. British Museum 2021. The Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo. British Museum. Available at: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/death-and-memory/anglo-saxon-ship-burial-sutton-hoo
  2. Guido, M. 1978. The Glass Beads of the Prehistoric and Roman Periods in Britain and Ireland. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London 35. London.
  3. National Trust 2021. Digging the Dirt: The true story behind The Dig. Available at: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo/features/digging-the-dirt-the-true-story-behind-the-dig
  4. Piggott, C.M. 1948. The excavations at Hownam Rings, Roxburghshire, 1948. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 82: 193–225. Available at: https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-352-1/dissemination/pdf/vol_082/82_193_225.pdf
  5. Pope, R. 2011. Processual archaeology and gender politics. The loss of innocence. Archaeological Dialogues 18(1), 59-86. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1380203811000134
  6. Roberts, J. 2005. Towards A Cultural History of Archaeology: British Archaeology Between the Wars. PhD Thesis, University of Wales, Newport. Available at: https://pure.southwales.ac.uk/files/2267122/J._Roberts_2005_1910411.pdf

The Dig True Story: The Most Valuable Treasures Found At Sutton Hoo

The Dig highlights the historical find of an ancient Anglo-Saxon ship burial — but the ship wasn't the only treasure unearthed at the Sutton Hoo site.

The Dig tells the true story of how a group of amateur excavators unearthed an ancient Anglo-Saxon ship in Suffolk, England, but what other valuable treasures were found at Sutton Hoo? With the threat of an impending World War II looming large, a widow named Edith Pretty (played by Carrie Mulligan) hired a self-trained archeologist named Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to excavate the burial site on her property at Sutton Hoo. What they discovered was extraordinary.

The historical significance of the dig, the people involved, and the attention it attracted from the media and museums alike, are all part of the real-life events depicted in The Dig. The film focuses on the people who came to work at Sutton Hoo, their various backgrounds, relationships, and how they came together during a time of strife to unearth the ancient ship’s remains. But the ship wasn’t the only big treasure waiting to be found at Sutton Hoo.

There are several things about the Sutton Hoo excavation that The Dig changes, including the treasures that were found at the site. In addition to the bones of the ship, there were over 200 artifacts uncovered at Sutton Hoo, making it one of the most important archeological excavations in history. Among the plethora of artifacts, a handful of discoveries stand out as the most valuable treasures found during the excavation that the film fails to mention.

In one scene from The Dig, an excavator named Peggy Preston (Lily James) finds a small gold jewel buried among the ship’s skeleton. This was only the beginning of the dazzling jewels that were found at the site. The Sutton Hoo purse-lid is the richest of its kind ever to be discovered. The top of a leather pouch used to carry coins, the lid is made of red garnets inlaid in gold and is considered one of the most magnificent creations of the Middle Ages. The purse was part of an ensemble that included a great buckle made entirely of gold and weighing more than 400 grams, an ornate gold belt, and two identical, bejeweled shoulder-clasps. Equally valuable are the royal sword and belt buckle, which was found crushed beneath the blade of the gold-hilted sword. The gold belt and buckle, ornately decorated in garnets and gold, held the sword in place. Aside from their large price tags, these discoveries helped prove that the person commemorated at the site was of great importance, contributing to the theory that King Raedwald was buried there.

The Sutton Hoo helmet is often the most celebrated treasure from the site and is considered one of the most important Anglo-Saxon discoveries of our time. In addition to its inherent value based on its age and materials, the Sutton Hoo helmet is also extremely important culturally. There are just four complete Anglo-Saxon helmets in existence to date, and the one unearthed at Sutton Hoo is the most elaborate ever found, making it truly a priceless artifact. Together these items make up the most valuable and historically significant finds from the Sutton Hoo excavation that changed the way people think about Anglo-Saxon culture. The Digconcludes with Edith Pretty donating these most-prized treasures to The British Museum, where they remain on display today along with the rest of the collection from Sutton Hoo.


Gold buckle from the Sutton Hoo Hoard.

Your Easy-access (EZA) account allows those in your organization to download content for the following uses:

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  • focus group presentations
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  • final materials distributed inside your organization
  • any materials distributed outside your organization
  • any materials distributed to the public (such as advertising, marketing)

Because collections are continually updated, Getty Images cannot guarantee that any particular item will be available until time of licensing. Please carefully review any restrictions accompanying the Licensed Material on the Getty Images website, and contact your Getty Images representative if you have a question about them. Your EZA account will remain in place for a year. Your Getty Images representative will discuss a renewal with you.

By clicking the Download button, you accept the responsibility for using unreleased content (including obtaining any clearances required for your use) and agree to abide by any restrictions.


Belt Buckle History

The following is presented to you so that perhaps you might obtain a greater understanding and appreciation for the common Belt Buckle. It is a clothing accessory which is under appreciated and for the most part is taken for granted.

Buckles are normally made of metal that is quite strong so as to hold the weight and pressure that could accidentally unclasp the belt or strap. So a belt buckle is a buckle that is used on a belt. At one end of the belt is a belt buckle that is fashioned onto it. The other end of the belt contains several holes, into which a prong or post (which is part of the buckle) is inserted into it for the purpose of securing the belt. In Western civilizations, men usually insert the belt through the pant loops in a counter-clockwise manner (looking down from above), while women tend to insert the belt in a clockwise direction.

Belts and buckles have been used for clothing since the Bronze Age. Both sexes used them off and on, depending on the current fashion, but it was a rarity in female fashion with the exception of the early Middle Ages. During the 2nd and 3rd century B.C. the Chinese semi nomadic people known as the Xiongnu wore belt buckles over long Tunics. These belt buckles were highly decorated and were worn as a mark of status. Germanic invaders, imported animal motifs characteristic of Scythian-Sarmatian decorative arts for their belt and buckles. This decorative art often represented animals entwined in mortal combat. A fine example of a buckle of a heavy rectangular type decorated with filigree was found in the tomb of Childeric I, king of the Franks, who died in AD 481/482. Several 7th-century gold buckles with interlacing curvilinear patterns and cutaway tongues, now in the British Museum, London, were found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial.

These modern additions to your wardrobe did not start out as such. Rather, buckles usage was started for their basic utility. Belts and buckles for the common man go back to the early 1600s, and the trials and tribulations of the British maritime industry.

These were the days before World War I, when the era belonged to the British Empire. This was also before the start of the railroad, which had a hand in diminishing the importance of the British fleet. Just like the railroad (and so many other inventions throughout human history), the belt buckle came about as a response to the needs of both the military and the merchant class.

British sailors, faced with brutal weather at sea, used eyelets and string to fasten their clothes, even though a goldsmith had recently invented the button. These eyelets were woefully inadequate once you were soaked, however. It was at this time that a seaman invented the very first belt buckle, and soon it became all the rage. Sailors attached them to leather belts and found them useful for holding up water-logged clothes, as well as easy to remove even with shivering fingers.

For many collectors, collecting antique belt buckles is also a great investment, they look for belt buckles that have a historical value. The most popular buckles are those manufactured and worn during famous wars, eg: the American Civil War. Some of these buckles are auctioned for thousands of dollars.

In modern times, men started wearing buckles and belts in the 1920s, as trouser waists fell to a lower, natural line. Before the 1920s, they served mostly a decorative purpose, and were associated with the military. Today, most men wear buckles and belt with their pants women tend to wear them for more decorative functions.

Today we value belt buckles for much more than their utility. Indeed, today belt buckles serve as a creative means of self-expression. Most fashion experts say that belt buckles give you a glimpse of a person's personality. There are assortments of belt buckles that cater to teens and fashion aficionados. Just recently, interest in belts as fashion accessories has been revived. Belt buckle designs range from the exquisite to the simple yet elegant styles. Belt buckles that we know today are evolving as a fashion revival. Both the belt and buckles have become an important accessory of men's and women's wardrobes.

Belt Buckles worn during the 1900's and those worn during the Art Nouveau period are highly collectable

The cowboy belt buckle did not come about until the first of the 20th Century. In reality all cowboys usually wore suspenders or buckles that were derived from military friction buckles.

Cowboy belt buckles are more like old paintings, They can be duplicated easily. It is very hard to distinguish between the genuine antique buckle and a duplicate, especially when the materials used in the copy are the same as those in the original. You must be very careful when buying a antique belt buckle, ask an expert before deciding to spend thousands of dollars.

The Old West is a unique period of our national history. Those buckles were dreamed up by Hollywood when Cowboy movies were big box office. The costume designers wanted the Cowboys to look stylish and distinctive buckles set them apart. Today Cowboy belt buckles are used by our own President, the Governor of California, movie stars, celebrities and just about anyone else who wants to be uniquely dressed. Western buckles are highly prized and some custom designed buckles sell for thousands of dollars.

The Western belt buckle is an American original. The Western Movies gave rise to what is known today as the Western Belt Buckle. Western belt buckles (which were inspired by cowboy belt buckles) inherit the masculine culture of those, which wore the first belt and buckles - the Roman Soldier. Most Western belt buckles are made of iron and plated in silver. But nowadays, other materials have been put together such as the discovery of alloys that will project a heavy look but are very light to wear.

Several of the most wanted belt buckle designs consist of the American eagle and patriotic flag belt buckle which are very common designs on belt buckles. Another popular design is the cowboy riding a bronco or bull, and yet another is flags of various countries and for various causes.

Today buckles come in all sizes and are made of all kinds of materials such as plastic, silver, wood and even gold. Buckles are made to be seen. Some are covered with Rhinestones as well as Diamonds. Throughout the ages belt buckles have been created and utilized to denote a person's profession and status. Military buckles may denote rank and perhaps decorative vital information. Various professions have decorative buckles that signify their association i.e. fireman, military, police and of course rodeo belt buckles are some of the coolest designs around. More and more people in today's society realize that the belt buckle can definitely dress up any given outfit. Buckles do not have to be expensive to do the job in expressing ones individuality. But the important thing is, buckles do not have to be expensive to express ones individuality or personality

There are buckle designers who are true artists, like Dan Ellis, Clint Orms and Edward Bohlin. They command high prices for their buckles. In there designs they use fine materials such as Silver and Gold and incorporate precious stones like diamonds rubies and emeralds in their buckles. Those who can afford them usually commission their personalized works of art, and must patiently waiter for their very own distinctive belt buckle.

From the first half of the century there are well known names in the manufacture of belt buckles. These include: Don Ellis, Michael Srour, Al Pecetti, William Nelson, John McCabe, Les Garica, Edward H. Bohlin, and Robert Schaezlein. Today there are an equal number of custom buckle makers but these older ones are the most prized for collections.


The farmer’s boy and the ship of gold: uncovering the treasures of Sutton Hoo

Basil Brown was a farmer’s boy from Rickinghall in Suffolk who left school around the age of 13 to work on his father’s holdings. He seemed set to spend his life working the land.

Brown, who was born in 1888, certainly succeeded in the task – though not through farming. He went on to work the land in a very different way.

As a young man, he had nursed a passion: to unearth hidden treasures and reveal the local countryside’s archaeological secrets. And as the Netflix film The Dig, released on 29 January, reveals, he triumphed in stunning style – by discovering the Sutton Hoo treasure in 1939.

Beneath a large mound of earth on private land outside Woodbridge in Suffolk, Brown – who is played by Ralph Fiennes – uncovered the buried remains of an entire 27-metre-long ship a secret chamber filled with gold and silver a sword with a jewelled hilt shoulder clasps of gold inlaid with garnet and pieces of iron that were later assembled to create the elaborate, iconic Sutton Hoo helmet. The seventh-century hoard was the richest grave ever excavated in Europe.

“Brown uncovered this country’s greatest archaeological treasure and in the process transformed our understanding of English life in the early medieval period,” says Sue Brunning, curator of the British Museum’s Sutton Hoo collection.

“Before Sutton Hoo, it was thought Britain had declined badly in cultural and economic terms after the Romans left. But Brown revealed treasures in this quiet corner of England that could be traced from sources across Europe and Asia and showed a vast trade in riches was going on at the time. England was no cultural backwater.”

The Sutton Hoo helmet, the centrepiece of the collection, was reconstructed from fragments, and may have belonged to a king. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The original decision to excavate at Sutton Hoo was made by wealthy widow Edith Pretty (played by Carey Mulligan). Her estate there was peppered with burial mounds that had been looted in Tudor times. Was there any treasure left, she wondered? Experts at Ipswich Museum recommended Brown – who by this time had taken evening classes while running the smallholding he took over from his father, earned several diplomas, and begun working on local archaeological digs.

In 1938, he made a couple of excavations that provided promising results and decided the next year to investigate the largest mound on the property. Not long after he started, Brown uncovered a piece of rusting iron that he recognised as a rivet from the bow of a ship.

Very slowly he peeled back the soil to reveal the shape of an entire vessel. The wood had disintegrated but the rivets lay precisely in place revealing the perfect outline of a Saxon longship. It was an astonishing sight: a ghostly image of an ancient vessel imprinted on the Suffolk soil.

At the time, virtually all ship burials had been found in Norway and were of Norse origin. But Brown was quick to realise this was not a Viking vessel but an Anglo-Saxon ship from an earlier period. “It is the find of a lifetime,” he wrote in his diary on 29 June, 1939.

The dig progressed to reveal a separate burial chamber that was, again, painstakingly excavated. Its treasures proved equally exotic as Brown discovered on 22 July when he was summoned by his team’s excited shouts and found that a hoard treasure had been uncovered.

“I never expected to see so much gold in any dig in this country,” Brown wrote that night. “There was a heavy gold buckle, the framework of a beautiful gold purse, in which were 39 gold coins … a belt in solid gold with the finest cloisonné work. All the objects shone in the sunshine as on the day they were buried.”

The effort and resources involved in dragging a ship deep inland before filling it with treasure and then burying it would have been a remarkable undertaking that brings to mind images of the Old English poem Beowulf with its soaring timber halls and powerful kings and nobles. Brown had helped to repaint our image of early medieval England.

At first, no sign of any human remains were found at the site and it was concluded it was meant to be more of a cenotaph than a grave. “However, later excavation indicated decayed organic remains that could have been human,” said Brunning. “For good measure, a huge, ornate sword had been laid out in a way that was consistent with other graves of warriors. So I am confident this was the tomb of a great individual, perhaps even a king.”

Intricate detail depicting snakes and birds on a gold belt buckle, uncovered at the site. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/PA

The identity of that person is not so certain, however. The best candidate remains King Raedwald, who died around AD625, though there is still disagreement among archaeologists about who was interred at Sutton Hoo.

As to the immediate fate of Brown’s trove, that was less glamorous. On 3 September, Britain declared war on Germany and the country went into martial lockdown. Sutton Hoo was covered over and its gold and silver taken to Aldwych tube station in London where the British Museum was storing its greatest treasures. After only a few weeks in the sunlight, it was placed in a tunnel that lay 10 times deeper than its original Suffolk resting place and returned to the dark until the end of the war.

Today, the hoard has been given its own room at the British Museum. The helmet, which was found shattered in pieces at Sutton Hoo, has been put together and the rest of its treasures put on public display – a monument to the sophistication of our seventh-century predecessors and to Basil Brown who unearthed their glories.

“He did an incredible job in excavating the ship at Sutton Hoo,” says Brunning. “He may have been self-taught but he was a remarkable archaeologist. As to the film, I think it does great credit to the man and to the find.”

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Watch the video: Sutton Hoo - Masterpieces of the British Museum - BBC Documentary (December 2021).