Yorkshire Museum

Middleham Jewel

A late 15th-century gold pendant, set with a large blue sapphire, the Middleham Jewel was discovered by a metal detectorist in 1985 near Middleham Castle, the northern home of Richard III.


Each side of the lozenge-shaped pendant is engraved with a religious scene. A high status item, it may have been owned by a relation of Richard III, possibly his wife Anne Neville, his mother Cecily Neville, or his mother-in-law Anne Beauchamp (1426–92), widow of Warwick the Kingmaker. The blue colour of the sapphire (related to the Virgin Mary), the presence of several female-saints, and the depiction of the Nativity scene suggest that the jewel may have been intended to assist childbirth.

The sapphire set above the Crucifixion may have been intended to have other magical or medicinal qualities as well, being able to cure ulcers, poor eyesight, headaches and stammers. The two words which follow the main Latin text – Tetragrammaton (the Latinised Hebrew name of God) and Ananizapta – may have been used as a charm against epilepsy