Workshop: Gems in Transit: Materials, Values and Knowledge in the Early Modern World, 1400-1800 (Amsterdam/Utrecht, 7-8 April 2016)

16 maart 2016

In the early modern period, as today, gems were the ultimate ‘hybrid objects.’ They played key roles in decorative art, global trade, and science and medicine. The aim of this workshop is to connect the many roles of early modern gems by bringing together historians of different stripes who study gems as material objects.

Participants will consider practices — such as mineral collecting and gem appraisal — that combined two or more of these roles. They will also trace the movement of gems and gem-related skills between communities of different kinds, including merchants, diamond-cutters, goldsmiths, natural philosophers, gem connoisseurs and jewellery wearers. The workshop will cover the consumption as well as the production of gems.

This workshop will address three large questions about the early modern world: what role did artisans, and especially those concerned with the decorative arts, play in early modern science? What impact did newly-available foreign goods have on European culture in this period? And what was the place of ‘old luxuries’, such as diamonds and rubies, in an age obsessed with ‘new luxuries’ such as porcelain and painted cotton?

Admission is free. Spaces for this workshop are however limited. If you are interested in attending, please send an email to The full workshop programme may be downloaded here (PDF file).


Gems in Transit. A two-day workshop on the art, science, trade and consumption of gems in the early modern world.

Dates and Venues

  • April 7 – 10:00 – 13:00: Plantage Muidergracht 12, Amsterdam – Building REC-M, Room S.02
  • April 8 – 10:00 – 16:30: Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, Utrecht – Ravensteynzaal 1.06