The collection of English silver in the Ashmolean Museum is one of the finest of its kind in the world. Four remarkable bequests received from 1946 resulted in an exceptionally comprehensive collection of English silver, spanning the 16th- to the mid-18th centuries. This has been greatly enriched over the last twenty years and by a number of important loans from Oxford colleges. New long-term loans of Christopher Dresser designed metalwork are displayed in the 19th-Century Galleries. There is also on display a small group of contemporary British silver.
In 2012, Michael Wellby bequeathed 500 pieces of Continental goldsmiths’ work and Kunstkammer objects, made mainly between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. It is the most important addition of objects of this type to any UK museum since the 19th century.
The collection of finger rings is the most important in the UK after the V&A and the British Museum. Most were presented C.D.E. Fortnum, in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The collection includes important medieval, renaissance and baroque examples.
The watch collection, assembled from the bequests of Bentinck Hawkins, J. Francis Mallet and Eric Bullivant, illustrates comprehensively the development of watch design and case decoration from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.
The bequest of J. Francis Mallett included a small but interesting group of Limoges painted enamels.
David Thompson, Watches in the Ashmolean Museum (Ashmolean Handbooks), Oxford, 2007
Timothy Schroder, British and Continental Gold and Silver in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 3 vols., 2009
Diana Scarisbrick and Martin Henig, Finger Rings (Ashmolean Handbooks), Oxford, 2003
Timothy Wilson and Matthew Winterbottom, Treasures of the Goldsmith’s Art: The Michael Wellby Bequest to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2015