The Fitzwilliam Museum has a wide-ranging collection of silver, mostly dating from 15th century to the present. As well as some early English spoons, the collection includes 16th- and 17th-century tankards and covered cups, made in the goldsmithing centres of Augsburg and Nuremburg, as well as English examples by emigré craftsmen such as Christiaen Van Vianen and Jacob Bodendeich. English Georgian silver, used for both display and dining, is well-represented and includes pieces by one of the greatest English silversmiths, Paul Storr.
The different design movements of the 19th and 20th century are also well-represented, especially the Arts & Crafts period, and we have fine pieces by designers such as Edward Spencer, Gilbert Marks, Omar Ramsden and C. R. Ashbee. The later 20th century is represented by a small number of pieces (e.g. designed by Robert Welch), and thanks to the generosity of the Sir Nicholas and Judith Goodison gift through the Art Fund, the Museum is actively acquiring contemporary silver and metalwork by artists such as Hiroshi Suzuki, Sidsel Dorph-Jensen and Adi Toch.
As well as its permanent collection, the Museum cares for some significant silver on long-term loan, such as works by Christopher Dresser and Gerald Benney (on loan from the Keatley Trust), the Gray collection of English drinking vessels dating from the reigns of Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, and a large range of church plate, viewable by appointment.
The museum also holds a range of other metalwork, including over 200 pieces of pewter, bequeathed to the museum by Antonio F. de Navarro in 1933.
The Fitzwilliam Museum contains a fine collection of jewellery of great historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance. It encompasses most forms of precious metal, gemstones, and minerals and demonstrates a variety of techniques of engraving, enamelling, and inlaying. The collection includes examples of fine medieval craftsmanship from the Anglo-Saxon and Byzantine periods, to stunning Art Nouveau brooches and pendants. There are purely decorative pieces, designed for adornment, as well as pieces with a more multi-layered role, such as religious and mourning jewellery. Some of the most recent additions to the collection are both functional as necklaces, rings, etc., as well as pieces of contemporary art by important artists who chose to work in the medium. The jewellery in the museum derives almost exclusively from donations, and was never actively collected or purchased. Therefore, it is entirely a reflection of the individual tastes and personal interests of collectors who donated or bequeathed their collections to the museum.
Some of the museum’s most important pieces of jewellery arrived in large mixed bequests of medieval or renaissance objects, like those in the Frank McLean (1904) and Charles Brinsley Marlay (1912) bequests. More recently, jewellery has made its way into the museum through donations of contemporary decorative arts, like those made by Sir Nicholas and Lady Judith Goodison. The largest single collection of jewellery in the museum came from Anne Hull Grundy, a wealthy heiress to the Corgi die-cast zinc toys fortune, who began collecting European jewellery from all periods at the age of eleven. Undeterred by an illness which left her first wheelchair-bound and then bedridden, Anne Hull Grundy amassed the finest collection of European jewellery in the world and was a benefactor to at least seventy museum collections, including the British Museum. Her voracious and eclectic collecting sometimes meant that authenticating her purchases could prove challenging, but this does not deter from the importance of the overall collection. The Fitzwilliam Museum received one hundred and thirty pieces of jewellery from her, with many of the Art Nouveau pieces on display in Gallery 27.