Exceptionally Rare Anglo Saxon Gold Garnet Aestel Jewel
This is an exceptionally rare Anglo Saxon period gold Aestel, dating to the 9th - 10th century A.D. This example retains the hollow gold shaft (missing on other known examples) originally used as a pointer for reading manuscripts.
The jewel is set with the original garnet cabochon gemstone, enclosed within a piriform shaped head. The underside is flat bottomed, as with most known examples (including the Alfred Jewel).
This is a very rare item, from an old Danish collection. It was likely once raided from a Saxon monastery or abbey in England, during the 10th century (taken as a plunder by the Vikings). The back of the jewel clearly shows chop marks and bite/tooth marks (where the Aestel was tested for its soft gold - rather than as a bronze plated object).
An aestel pointed out words being read, lest the finger wear away ink from the parchment. The word 'Aestel' derived from late Latin 'hastella', meaning ‘shaft’. The long hollow shaft of this example lacks strength, so ideal for pointing but not much else! I expect the shaft would have been much longer (but has been chopped up for payment in a bullion economy).
All surviving 'aestels' differ slightly in size, form, and decoration but most share typical features of domed body and flat base. The best-known is the Alfred Jewel, also the largest (length 62mm) and most elaborate, set with rock crystal, an anthropomorphic enamel and an inscription (Ashmolean Museum; Hinton 2008; Webster and Backhouse 1991, no. 260). This Aestel compares far better with several smaller examples:
Others include 'The Yorkshire Aestel', 'The Edmund jewel' (SF-3ABEB9) 32mm x 17.59mm, The Minster Lovell jewel (Ashmolean Museum) 31mm, The Bowleaze Cove jewel (British Museum) 28mm, The Warminster jewel (Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum) similar sized. Finally a pear-shaped artefact from Borg in Lofoten, Norway (Munch, Johansen and Roesdahl 2003, pp. 246 - 247, fig. 9H.8). The Borg Aestel was discovered in the 1980s in the ruins of a Viking chieftain's hall in Borg, Norway. Like this example shared a similar fate!
Very few of these rare jewels have survived or have been recognized, this is an ideal investment piece for a serious collector!
DATE: c. 9th - 10th century A.D.
MATERIAL: Gold & Garnet
SIZE: 93mm x 17mm x 8mm
WEIGHT: 4.38 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. Old Danish Collection