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Vice Admiral Lord Nelson’s lost diamond jewel on show at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

23 October 2017

On the eve of Trafalgar Day, The National Museum of the Royal Navy has revealed the first authentically recreated replica in diamonds of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson’s fabled lost jewelled chelengk.

Gifted to Vice Admiral Lord Nelson by Sultan Selim III of Turkey after the Battle of the Nile in 1798, the chelengk became a symbol of Nelson’s prowess, proudly worn on his hat like a turban jewel. The chelengk caused a sensation in England with images of it published in the fashion press and in many portraits of Nelson starting a craze for similar jewels.  

However, when on display in 1951, the jewel was stolen and lost forever, never to be seen again. Now, thanks to revelations made by author and historian Martyn Downer’s latest book ‘Nelson’s Lost Jewel’, which tells the extraordinary true story of the chelengk and unearths new found drawings of the original, a replica of the jewel has been accurately created for the first time.

Made by a highly-skilled British goldsmith in London using traditional techniques, it contains over 300 diamonds, placed in thirteen rays to represent the French ships captured or destroyed in action and a central diamond Ottoman star which is powered by clockwork.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy said: “The new images of the chelengk are a ground-breaking discovery, and we are delighted that with the help of Martyn Downer, we have been able to recreate and showcase the lost jewel surrounded by our Nelson collection at the National Museum. As the first non-Muslim recipient of such an honour, Vice Admiral Lord Nelson’s chelengk is of great historical importance and this expertly crafted replica showcases the masterpiece in all of its glory.”

Martyn Downer, author of Nelson’s Lost Jewel said: “It’s one of the most historic, bizarre and instantly recognisable jewels in British history and still familiar to most people around the world through the many portraits of Nelson and even featured on Trafalgar Square’s Nelson’s Column. The new jewel seeks to reproduce the wonder generated by the original and visitors will certainly be wowed!”

The chelengk will be on display in the Nelson Gallery, just a stone’s throw from Nelson’s famous flagship HMS Victory until 2018 and will be exhibited on a black felt cocked hat newly made to Nelson’s exact measurements by his London hatters Lock & Co. A specially commissioned short film will complete the showcase, giving visitors a unique historical insight into a new aspect of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson’s career and life.

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