There are many enthusiastic buffs interested in Anglo-Saxon artifacts, including myself, who were unable to see the Alfred Jewel at Taunton museum due to time constraints. This setback was due to the brevity of the exhibition, the Jewel being on display for one month only. The good news is, however, that there is a replica Alfred Jewel on display in Burlington museum. So for all those disappointed people who were unable to get to Taunton, here is a second chance to view the jewel. The replica Jewel will be on display until the museum closes in April. The museum then undergoes a two year refurbishment with the aid of a lottery grant of a million pounds. It reopens in 2017.
A few notes about the Jewel
The design is in the form of a tear-drop shaped gold frame, the edge of which bears the inscription Aelfred mec heht gewyrcan (Alfred ordered me to be made). Within the frame is a highly polished piece of quartz decorated with a pattern formed by pieces of enamel in various colours and separated by strips of flattened wire known as cloisonné, and depicting the figure of a man with wide eyes, long locks of hair, his two arms carrying stems fruiting from a bulb. The jewel terminates in a stylised animal head, its jaws containing a rivet.
The figure is thought to be of Alfred, or a Saint or possibly a figure depicting sight, the most important of the five senses, and necessary for reading and the accumulation of wisdom.
It has been suggested that it is an aestel (a pointer used for following written text), part of a crown or an ornament worn as a brooch or pendent.
The Alfred Jewel replica has come from one of three manufacturers. Payne and Son of Oxford who produced copies for the millennium celebration of King Alfred in 1901, W.H.Young for the Ashmolean museum and Elliot Stock of London.
The replicas were cast from a mould, probably made from drawings of the original and then hand worked to finish.