The Middleham Jewel is a medieval pendant which was discovered by treasure hunters in 1985 near Middleham in Yorkshire. The pendant weighs three ounces and is embossed with a sapphire and a picture of the Holy Trinity on the front and the Nativity on the reverse. It is thought that the pendant may have been owned by the mother of Richard III given the high value and prestige of the item.
It was saved for the nation following a campaign led by The Yorkshire Museum, who launched a 2.5 million pound appeal, the highest amount paid at the time for an item of medieval jewellery. The money raised ensured that it wasn’t exported, with the National Heritage Memorial Fund contributing 1.7 million pounds, John Paul Getty jnr who donated 350,000 pounds, the National Arts Collections Fund who donated 180,000 pounds, 75,000 pounds from the Headley Trust, 60,000 pounds from the Victoria and Albert Museum, 25,000 pounds from the Goldsmith’s Company and the public who also donated nearly 20,000 pounds.
The donation from the National Heritage Memorial Fund was at the time the highest grant given to a museum outside of London and the value of the item was set on the advice of the British Museum. The pendant had already been auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1986 and had reached 1.4 million pounds, but an export licence for the item was refused pending the Yorkshire Museum raising funds to purchase it.
The Middleham Jewel was for some months displayed at the British Museum as part of their ‘Medieval Treasures’ exhibition, but is now visible again at the Yorkshire Museum. The museum’s web-site can be found at http://www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk/.