The statue of St Eligius on the facade of Orsanmichele church in Florence, Italy

A saintly discovery

I was engrossed in a recent conversation in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham on our last visit. Now, it’s been stated that ‘every day is a school day’. That said, you can’t often teach a daft lad from the Black Country much…

The conversation detailed fascinating facts regarding the patron saint of jewellery – who knew there was one? And the guardian of gold from the underworld – again, never heard of such like.

Intrigued, on our return I did a Google search to discover that the conversation had some merit. Being rather curious, I wanted to know more. Some research later, I discovered some interesting myths and legends, so here’s what I found out…

The patron saint of jewellers and metalworkers is Saint Eligius, venerated by the Catholic church. His official festival day is celebrated on December 1, however he is more associated with the May offering. St Eligius was born in June 588 and died on December 1, 660 in Noyon, France.

Known as St Eloi by the French, he was a Frankish goldsmith, courtier, and bishop, who was chief counsellor to Dagobert I and later Bishop of Noyon-Tournai. His deeds were recorded in Vita Sancti Eligii, written by his friend Audoin of Rouen.

Born into a Gallo-Roman family, Eligius found success as a goldsmith at the Merovingian royal court of Clotaire II and served as chief counsellor to Dagobert I until Dagobert’s death in 639. Under the subsequent regency of Nanthild, the queen consort, Eligius, was ordained a priest and campaigned against simony in the church. Appointed Bishop of Noyon-Tournai in 642, he founded many monasteries and churches while working to convert the pagan population of Flanders to Christianity.

Despite his background as a goldsmith, Eligius became increasingly ascetic during his time at the royal court and used his influence to ransom captive slaves and care for the poor.

In contrast, Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, was the mythical first-born son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. The myths and legends tell of how Hades forbade his subjects to leave his underworld domain and would become enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal the souls from his realm. His wrath was equally terrible for anyone who tried to cross him. Hades was also feared by those attempting to steal precious minerals and gold from his underworld realm. He would seek to destroy all who betrayed him and capture their souls for eternity. Other tales tell of how Hades would collapse tunnels and mines to trap the mortals who attempted to steal parts of his world.

Despite modern connotations of death as evil, Hades was actually more altruistically inclined in mythology. Hades was portrayed as passive and never portrayed negatively.
So, as gold buyers you could say that we are connected to both the guardian of the underworld protecting his precious gold to a metal worker who became a saint, through our jewellery trade and gold buying.

If you would like a free valuation on any of your items, simply call in to our shop in London Street, Norwich, for a quote.

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