Queen Elizabeth receiving the Cameo of Pocahontas

William Miles, chief of the Pamunkey nation, presents the Queen with a replica of the Pocahontas cameo brooch made by Gareth Eckley. The original brooch was presented to Pocahontas in London over 400 years ago.

This important occasion was to honor the role of Pocahontas in the very survival of John Smith and his settlement at Jamestown. This ceremony was part of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Colony. The first permanent settlement of the British in North America. 

For the Queen he was asked to reproduce the image of Pocahontas to emulate a cameo which was carved by a London jeweller from a piece of Sardonyx Agate and set into a gold, pearl and diamond brooch. This cameo brooch was presented to Pocahontas by King James I and Queen Anne at the Royal Court in London in 1616.

The high profile client, whose name is to remain private, searched worldwide and Gareth was recommended as her best option to create this special Jewel. Garethflew to Virginia, where he examined the original cameo at the Jamestown Settlement Museum near Williamsburg.

Gareth creates an image on the cameo by hand, carving with diamond tools into layered agate. Gradually removing the layered material, he uses the contrast in colour and translucency of the layers of stone to create shading effects that give a stunning degree of realism to the finished portrait.

The cameo later made its way back to Virginia. It was stolen in the American civil war, when it was removed from the original gold setting and lost. It was later recovered and a new setting was made to display the cameo. A direct descendant of Pocahontas, the Reverend Cary Weisiger III, donated the cameo brooch to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation in the 1950’s.

Quest for Authenticity

Gareth added: “In Elizabethan times they had quite a classical Roman or Greek style of carving and the image had been made to look quite cherubic. I felt that rather than make a straight reproduction I would alter the cameo to have a more Indian profile. My making the image more authentic was really appreciated by the Virginian Indian tribes.”

The Queen was presented with the cameo, which was finished with rare fresh- water pearls fished from the Tennessee, after the Chief’s of the eight Virginian tribes had blessed it in a ceremony.

Her Majesty then visited Jamestown, also in Virginia, along with Prince Phillip and her host Vice President Dick Cheney the following day, May 4th to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the town’s founding in a ceremony at a re-created colonial fort.

The town holds its significance as the first area of major western settlement in May 1607, and as the place where Pocahontas acted as mediator between her native father, chief of the Powhatan tribe, and Captain John Smith of the English Settlement, effectively saving the captain’s life on at least two occasions.

Pocahontas later married English tobacco planter John Rolfe and moved to Britain before passing away from pneumonia at the age of 22 as she was preparing to sail back to America. She is buried in Gravesend, Kent.

Home in Buckingham Palace

Her Majesty took the Cameo of Pocahontas back to the UK. It is now part of the Queen’s private collection at Buckingham Place. When asked about the Queen’s gift, Gareth added with a smile: ” I did hear that she likes it very much.”