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Very deep crescent-shaped gorget with rolled edge. In the centre is an engraved oval-shaped cartouche containing three fleur-de-lys. To either side of the oval is a branch with leaves and berries, and above a crown. Hanging from bottom edge of the gorget are four silver and three gold engraved beaver effigies. Hole fitted with purple skin strips at each upper edge. Maker’s mark below each suspension hole and on each beaver.

History Of Use

In Europe during the Renaissance period the helmets of warriors were fitted with a crescent-shaped plate called a gorget, which extended downward to protect the throat. Gradually, this armour became obsolete due to the use of firearms, but some breastplates, helmets and gorgets were brought to North America for protection against native arrows. The use of this armour declined here too, in favour of increased mobility, but the crescent-shaped gorgets continued to be worn separately by officers as a badge of military rank and authority, and consequently had appeal as trade items denoting strength and power. Reference Hamilton, pages 69-71.

Silver ornaments represent an important part of early exchange between Europeans, including fur traders, and First Nations peoples, especially in eastern and central Canada and the U.S.A. Initially, the main source of silver was British, French and Spanish coins. Most ornaments were produced by silversmiths of European origin in North America and Europe, and were actively traded only from 1760 to 1821. By the mid-18th century silver objects were produced in New England, Quebec and Montreal. Silver was used by First Nations peoples as a sign of rank. Silver ornaments in these styles continue to be produced by native silversmiths in central Canada and the U.S.A.

Animal imagery is a significant part of Woodland First Nations tradition, but no documented instance has been found of the use of animal effigies in trade. The place of effigies in Woodlands culture is not known.

In 1670 King Charles II of England granted an exclusive fur trading charter to the Hudson’s Bay Company in what was later to become Canada. The company’s mandate was to protect the Crown’s interests and undertake exploration and territorial expansion. Competition for furs was intense, and in 1784 the North West Company was formed by a number of independent trading groups. By 1821 this Company faced bankruptcy and merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company. This latter company still exists today, operating a number of retail stores across Canada, and is known simply as The Bay.

Cultural Context

personal decoration; status

Specific Techniques

Repousse is a type of ornamentation formed in relief in metal by hammering up from the reverse or inner side.

Item History

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