This rock crystal reliquary is notable both for its large size and for its clarity, and would have represented an important commission in the late romanesque period. It relates to a series of cabochon- and cylinder-shaped reliquaries datable to the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries by Hahnloser and Brugger-Koch (op. cit.). Although the present gilt-copper mount is almost certainly a later replacement, it probably follows the function of an earlier one as there is no evidence of other fastening ridges or holes in the stone.
Although the overall form is broadly similar to other reliquaries, it is unusual in that it is drilled from only one end, suggesting that it was always meant to hang or stand vertically. In this respect it is like the central piece of rock crystal in a 'carriage' reliquary in Orléans, or a reliquary containing the hand of St. Attala (d. 741) in the Magdalenkirche in Strasbourg (Hahnloser, op. cit., nos. 187 and 188).
Arnold John Hugh Smith worked for Hambro's Bank and was Treasurer of the National Art Collections Fund. He collected in a wide variety of disciplines and, on his death, much of his collection was left to the Tate and Ashmolean Museums.