The Alfred Jewel replica

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This is an electrotype copy of the Alfred Jewel, the original of which was discovered in 1693 near Athelney in Somerset, and is now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Administrative / Biographical History

It seems that three main types of replica were made around the beginning of the twentieth century. From the shape of the animal head on the socket, this copy would appear to be an Elliot Stock (Elkington) copy, made in 1899-1900 and distributed by Elliot Stock, a London bookseller and publisher. The replica is displayed on a modern wooden support. Various uses have been suggested for the original jewel. It may have been the head of an aestel , which is thought to have been a book-pointer, used to assist the reader in keeping his or her place. It may possibly have formed part of a symbol of office, such as a crown. The design, in cloisonne enamel under rock crystal, shows a human figure holding two wands with flower-like heads. This figure, with its accentuated eyes, has variously been identified as the personification of Sight or of Spring, as Christ as Wisdom, holding Aaron's flowering rod, as the Pope, or as Alfred himself. The frame, of gold in the original and silver gilt in the replica, is decorated on the reverse with a stylised plant on a background of basketwork hatching, and on the socket with an animal head, possibly a boar, in granulation and filigree. Around the sides, in openwork, is the inscription, "AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN", which means "Alfred ordered me to be made". The style of the original jewel may indicate English manufacture of the late ninth century, and, in view of the delicacy and richness of the workmanship and the associations of Alfred the Great of Wessex with the area where it was found, it has been argued that the inscription refers to King Alfred.

Conditions Governing Access

The replica may be viewed by bona fide researchers. The Special Collections is open Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm. Access by appointment only. Contact specialcollections@le.ac.uk to make an appointment.

Acquisition Information

The replica was donated to the Department of English of the University of Leicester by Miss M.B. Daunt in December 1958.

Archivist's Note

Description prepared by Margaret Maclean on 10 March 2011.

Location of Originals

The original is held at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford.