Crucifix Physical Object

Accession Number
Alternate object names
Pendant Crucifix;Crucifix;Cross;Pendant;Emerald-mounted Gold Pendant Cross;Devotional Object
Creation Date
circa 1550 – 1600
This beautiful crucifix is made of 18 carat gold and set with seven high-quality emeralds from Columbia’s famous Muzo mine: four large rectangular-cut emeralds centered by a large square-cut emerald above a large drop-form cabochon emerald over a further large hexagonal-cut emerald. The conforming molded cross is decorated with elaborately chased scrolling fleur-de-lis cartouche terminals and surmounted by a beaded molded-circular suspension loop. The verso is engraved with the image of Saint Anthony (the patron saint of lost things) carrying the Christ child in one arm, who holds an orb. St. Anthony is traditionally depicted holding a lily in his other hand, but in this case, it appears to be a palm frond. A further reserve is engraved with the Madonna and Christ child interspersed by various stylized tropical flowering and fruit-bearing trees and vines.

Note: The Latin Cross was the supreme herald of the Counter Reformation. De rigueur for those of high station in the dominions of Catholic Spain, elaborate crosses and skeletonal cruciforms were sported conspicuously as pendants, rosaries, and gauds. The extraordinary workmanship devoted to these Christian symbols was clearly of an effort and intent to impress, with dual regard to the accumulation of worldly riches and a preening subscription to the Faith. This superb, jeweled cross is a very fine, highly rare and classic example of the apogee of a distinctly Mid-Renaissance Christian form; further, the inclusion of seven large Muzo emeralds places it amongst the most magnificent of the few recorded extant pectoral crosses of the period.

The cross was recovered with emerald ring (1986.008.0006) inside pewter reliquary box (1986.008.0007).

9.6 x 5.9 x 0.9 cm (1.6 cm thickness teardrop emerald) 79.15 grams (2021 weight with gold hanging ring attached). 11.5 by 6.2 cm

Exhibition Label
Case/Object Caption (2023):

Cross And Ring
Gold with emeralds and traces of enamel (Colombia, c.1620)
Gifts of Jamestown Inc.
1986.008.0005, 1986.008.0006

Reliquary Box
Pewter (c.1600)
Gift of Jamestown Inc.

This magnificent cross might have been destined for a high-ranking member of the Spanish court. However, both cross and ring were discovered on the wreck site of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha inside this reliquary. Possibly the box and its contents were intended to be a gift for the Pope, Gregory XV. The box bears his initials, ABL, Alessandro Boncampagni Ludovisi, who died in 1623.

The saint depicted on the back of the cross is most likely St. Anthony of Padua. Decorations feature tropical fruit such as coconuts, pineapples, and mangoes, indicating that this cross was made in the Americas by an Indigenous craftsman. The emeralds on both cross and ring are from Colombia’s Muzo mines.
Former Exhibition Label:

The Emerald Cross (Reverse) 
Evidence suggests the entire cross was made in the Americas, possibly by an indigenous jeweler who had been trained in European design. The decoration at the four ends of the cross, the delicate etching of the Virgin Mary and Child, and a saint - all reflect Roman Catholic iconography of the time. The accompanying decorations of tropical fruit: pineapples, coconuts, and possibly mangoes or papaya, identify the artist as Creole (native born) of Native American.

Who is the saint who holds the Christ Child and a palm frond? His robes could be those of a Franciscan, Dominican, or Augustinian friar. A palm frond usually signifies martyrdom and is most often associated with Franciscan saints.

Most likely, the saint is Saint Anthony of Padua (a Franciscan) who is often depicted holding the Christ Child, but with a lily and a bible as well. Aptly, he is the patron saint of lost things and sailors.