Published: March 20, 2007
The authenticity of a rare and valuable suit of armor dating back to Sixteenth Century Prussia, one of the powerful states of Germany of the latter Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, was recently established through the use of latest advancement in forensic science.
The current owner, a Connecticut woman, has spent many years researching the history and origin of this rare armor. After identifying the coat of arms on the breastplate of the armor as belonging to Joachim II, contact was made with a museum curator in Germany, who subsequently provided the history of the armor of Joachim II written by Edgar van Ubisch in 1890.
It was determined that this armor was made by Peter von Speyer, a master armorer of the German city of St Annanberg, for Joachim II Hektor (1505‱571) Elector (King of Prussia). An armorer in the Sixteenth Century was considered a servant of the nobility. The armor of a king is a rare historical treasure, especially when it is complete and in good condition. It is also unusual to find a Sixteenth Century suit of armor so complete and its rarity is increased because it is the only known suit of any period in history signed in four places on the outside by a servant of the king. The suit of armor has been appraised at $10 million.
“How the suit of armor belonging to Joachim II that I have arrived in the United States is somewhat of a mystery,” said the owner. “It first appeared in the late 1940s in a restaurant near Boston. Twenty years later it was purchased by a gentleman from Rhode Island and remained in his possession until 1991 when he put it on consignment in an antique store in Connecticut where I purchased it.”
The armor, in the possession of the present owner, was shown to various experts most of whom were puzzled as to its origin. She was told it was everything from an authentic piece to a forgery, to an Eighteenth Century replacement for a lost suit of armor, to an excellent copy made in the Nineteenth Century.
Upon learning that recent advancements in forensic science could identify the age of metal, she contacted a company in Santa Fe that specializes in analysis and development of new methods of testing the age of metal.
Preliminary tests were positive, so a full Class Four forensic evaluation was initiated. A Class Four forensic report is considered a US government official legal document that can be submitted as evidence in a court of law. According to the report, there is scientific evidence that the armor’s construction, metal forging, material age, tool signatures, rust and crystallization are from the late 1500s.
Along with the forensic evidence are copies of 15 pages of original archival documents that provide a complete history of the order and manufacture of the armor. According to the documentation, the armor was ordered by Joachim II and manufactured by Peter von Speyer to be lighter and stronger than anything previously manufactured.
This armor, with interchangeable parts, was to be used for tournaments, field and court. A king usually had in his possession court armor and field armor. He also had spare parts of armor, such as breast and back plates, helmet and arm and leg parts for tournament use.
For information, www.kingsarmor.com.
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