Jewelry in the Ximenez-Da Vega Inventory

To gain an understanding of the various functions of jewelry mentioned in the Ximenez inventory, one should consider the locations in which jewels and jewelry were kept. In the Ximenez-da Vega household jewels and precious stones were to be found in mainly four spaces. We can assume that the four consecrated paternosters and the gold and silver rings kept in the library and mentioned next to other 'holy' objects such as Agnus Dei and consecrated medals had primarily devotional and/or talismanic functions. More difficult to define is the purpose of the pieces of jewelry recorded in the inventory for the small office ("Comptoirken") next to the dining room. These included several pendants kept in boxes – a pair of blue pendants made of ceramic, glass pendants, crystal pendants of various colors – several rings, several loose pearls, and three paternosters. Also stored in that room were medals, jewelry-like objects that served as collectibles rather than being worn. It is difficult to say whether the glass, crystal, and ceramic pendants kept in the "Comptoirken" were worn or not. Emmanuel Ximenez had a strong interest in the production of colored glass in imitation of precious stones and might have used these objects for the purpose of study.

The majority of the jewelry – inventoried as such under the heading "juweelen" – was, interestingly, to be found in the "porcelain room" where it was kept in a leather-bound chest (along with silverware and dishes). These pieces constituted of several heavy gold chains, which were worn by distinguished citizens at the time, pendants in various forms, and various adornments for hats, including diamond studded hatbands and several diamond studded clasps. One may assume that these were pieces of jewelry that Emmanuel Ximenez or Isabel Da Vega actually wore. The Portuguese couple certainly owned a fine and costly collection of headwear. Examples include a "black hat with a straw band on which are twenty-five little golden shells, and a black feather," and, also kept among the jewels, a "black felt hat with violet feathers, and a golden pendant decorated with seventy-five rubies, six diamonds, and two pearls." Finally, in the dining room there were two more rings, a pair of bracelets and a small number of pearls in a buffet; the pearls were intended to be used for a cap.

The Ximenez-da Vega family had a number of very different objects that can be referred to as jewels or jewelry: loose pearls and precious stones, which could be either kept in storage for a new use later, or function as carriers of monetary value or collectors' items, religious objects such as the paternosters, and jewelry meant to be worn, including rings, chains and clasps. For most of the objects we have little indication of their actual appearance. However, the portrait of Anna Ximenez, Emmanuel's sister, in Otto van Veen's triptych of the Nativity made for her and her powerful husband Simão Rodrigues d'Evora, Baron of Rhodes, gives us a good impression of how the Portuguese merchant families in Antwerp displayed her status and wealth. In comparison to other wealthy citizens and patricians of their time the Ximenez-Da Vega family's collection of jewelry was significant, but not overwhelming. The 1637 inventory of the goods in the house on the Meir belonging to Justa Henriques (d. 1637), widow of the Portuguese merchant and entrepreneur Emmanuel Nuñes d'Evora (d. 1636) shows that she had tens of thousands of precious stones at her death, presumably for commercial purposes. Overall the heterogeneous nature of the jewelry in the Ximenez inventory and its distribution across different spatial contexts shows that these pieces carried various associations and were used for different purposes.

Kim Siebenhüner, University of Bern, Christine Göttler, University of Bern, and Sarah Joan Moran, University of Bern & University of Antwerp


Everaert, John. "Antwerp, Turning Table of the International Circuit in Precious Stones and Jewels (16th-17th Centuries)." Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung 1 (2004): 121-142.

Harlow, George E. "Following the History of Diamonds." The Nature of Diamonds. Ed. George E. Harlow. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 116-135.

Kockelberg, Iris, Eddy Vleeschdrager, and Jan Walgrave. Siebenhüner, Kim. Die Spur der Edelsteine. Eine Sozial- und Kulturgeschichte der Juwelen (in preparation).

Otto van Veen, triptych of the Nativity, shortly before 1600, Maagdenhuis, Antwerp. Detail: Anna Ximenez, shown wearing a "point-cut ring" and an "oval brooch with table-cut diamonds." Image: © Maagdenhuis.