2650AR Noonans Gold Pommel 1

Gold Saxon sword pommel, £16,000 at Noonans.

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Two lots sold at Noonans underlined such demand when offered at the June 20 Ancient Coins and Antiquities sale in Mayfair, London.

A gold Saxon sword pommel that was discovered in Billesdon, Leicestershire, by an 81-year-old metal detectorist during a detectorist meeting sold for a hammer price of £16,000 against an estimate of £15,000-18,000). It was bought by a bidder over the internet (plus 24% buyer's premium).

Following the sale, Nigel Mills, artefact and coin expert at Noonans, said: “This was a stunning piece, and we are very pleased with the result. Further research has shown that the placename Billesdon means sword hill, so it’s very apt that the pommel, which we think would have belonged to an Anglo-Saxon chief who probably lost it in a battle with a Viking, was found there.”

2650AR Noonans Gold Pommel 2

Gold Saxon sword pommel, £16,000 at Noonans.

The finder, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was searching a field during a local detector meeting in July 2021 when he had a signal. After digging to a depth of 7in he discovered a gold Saxon sword pommel dating to the early 7th century AD decorated with a filigree pattern.

The pommel - measuring 4 x 1.5cm and weighing 20.5gms - was declared as treasure and was been disclaimed after the Leicester Museum declined to purchase it. The vendor will share the sale proceeds with the landowner.

Mills added: “It is of cocked hat form using beaded wire filigree ornamentation. On one side are two dragons or beasts facing each other with their heads and front paws touching. The other side has an interlaced snakelike pattern.

“It compares with the detectorist-found Staffordshire hoard of gold jewellery, while the motif of the confronting beasts on the sword mounts can be seen on a shield from the Sutton Hoo ship burial. The pommel would have been fixed to the end of the sword handle both as a counterbalance and to stop the hand slipping. The imagery displayed would have imbued a mystical power to the sword.”

Noonans noted in the cataloguing: “W Menghin 1983 described these pommels as type Beckum-Vallstenarum dating them to c.600AD. They have been found in Germany and France and in the UK, with the recent Staffordshire hoard being the largest number.”

Field find

2650AR Noonans Nobbyl 1

Celtic fertility figure of a nude male, £3000 at Noonans.

Offered with an estimate of £1000-1500 but sold at £3000 was ‘Nobby’. That was the nickname given to this fertility figure of a nude male found by retired HVG driver Bob Jemmett during an organised metal-detecting rally in south Cambridgeshire almost six years ago.

The reason for the 37 x 10mm figure’s nickname may become obvious from the photos…

2650AR Noonans Nobbyl 2

Celtic fertility figure of a nude male, £3000 at Noonans.

When Jemmett received a signal he dug down 4in to uncover “a small bronze nude male figure which featured a prominent erection similar to the Cerne Abbas Giant that is carved into a hill in Dorset”.

He said: “The figure was identified as a Celtic fertility figure and published on the Portable Antiquities website and subsequently used as a logo by the rally organisers in their promotions. As a result, detectorists from all over Europe at rallies would ask me if they could see ‘Nobby’ who I always keep in my pocket as a constant companion.”

As Nigel Mills of Noonans added: “This unique figure dates from the 1st century BC. He has an oversized bald head with deep sockets for eyes, wedges for arms and short legs. There is a loop behind for suspension.”