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Metal detectorist discovers 'Exquisite' Tudor necklace linked to King Henry VIII

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Charlie Clarke had only been metal detecting for six months when he found buried treasure in 2019.

CHARLIE CLARKE: I just lost a dog, which was a really good companion of mine. A friend of mine asked me if we wanted to go out, do a bit of metal detecting in the field, get a bit of fresh air.

SHAPIRO: After hours of turning up scrap metal in a field in Warwickshire, England, Clarke's metal detector beeped again. So he dug in the rain until he was elbow-deep in the ground and pulled out a large gold necklace with a heart-shaped pendant.

CLARKE: All of a sudden, the weather doesn't matter. You know, it's - your adrenaline is through the roof. You're excited to see - just the color in gold just changes everything.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The 34-year-old cafe owner knew he had found something special. But it wasn't until he met with someone from the British Museum that he realized just how important it was.

CLARKE: When I first handed it to her, her reaction said it all. Her jaw dropped. You could see it in her eyes. She was shaking holding it.

CHANG: The British Museum announced the discovery of the necklace in late January, and it turns out it's over 500 years old and inscribed with the letters H and K for King Henry VIII and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

SHAPIRO: Rachel King is the British Museum's curator of Renaissance Europe, and she says she was in disbelief the first time she saw it in person.

RACHEL KING: Even in my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined something like this. It's so unheard of, something so exquisite.

CHANG: Well, exquisite and large.

KING: It's a big piece of bling, as one would say.

CHANG: The necklace's chain is made up of 75 gold links and weighs more than half a pound. The heart-shaped pendant is about two inches across, and it's decorated with an intertwined red-and-white Tudor rose and a pomegranate symbolizing King Henry VIII's marriage to Katherine.

KING: And they're more than just intertwined. They grow from the same bough. This is a reference to the moment they have their first child.

SHAPIRO: Now, the necklace will be valued. Clarke and the landowner will eventually split the reward. And Clarke - well, he's hooked on the hobby.

CLARKE: As a child, you always want to find treasure. Don't you? And, I mean, you're doing exactly that. You're finding treasure. The fact that it's changed history, it's of national importance - you never know where this hobby can take you.

CHANG: So to any aspiring metal detectorists out there, Charlie Clarke says, get out there. You may not find a historic artifact, but at the very least, you'll get some fresh air.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK SONG, "TWILIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Seyma Bayram
Seyma Bayram is the 2022-2023 Reflect America Fellow at NPR.