An authentic replica of Lord Nelson’s fabled jewelled chelengk, which was lost forever after being stolen from an exhibition more than 65 years ago, is to go on display.
The military decoration, containing hundreds of diamonds, was given to the Vice Admiral by Sultan Selim III of Turkey following the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
It soon became a symbol of Nelson’s prowess and after he wore it on his hat like a turban jewel, it became a fashion sensation and started a craze for similar jewels.
But in 1951, the jewel was stolen during a night time raid on a gallery which was claimed in 1994 by the infamous cat burglar George ‘Taters’ Chatham who said he sold it for a few thousand pounds and that it had been broken up.
The replica, created by a highly-skilled British goldsmith in London using traditional techniques, has been designed based on research by historian Martyn Downer for his latest book Nelson’s Lost Jewel which tells the story of the chelengk and includes newly-found drawings of the original.
It contains more than 300 diamonds, placed in thirteen rays to represent the French ships captured or destroyed in action as well as 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.”
Mr Downer 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 at the museum which is located next to Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
It will be exhibited alongside a black felt cocked hat newly made to Nelson’s exact measurements by his London hatters Lock & Co.