The gold finger ring set with a sapphire dates from around AD 1100-1500 and most probably belonged to a high ranking member of the clergy. It was discovered in the parish of Wembury in 2014 by metal detectorist, Robin Barker and recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

The ring has now been added to Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives’ archaeology collections. It was purchased with help from The Headley Trust, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.

Sapphires are traditionally associated with sincerity and faithfulness and were also a symbol of chastity during Medieval times. High status finds made from precious metal that date from this period are extremely rare within the local area.

Members of the clergy were vowed to a life of celibacy so it’s likely they may have worn a ring like this. High ranking clergy would have also believed that by displaying the wealth of the church in this way they were praising God. At least a dozen sapphire rings have been found in the graves of Medieval bishops.

From AD 1121-1539 the lands around Wembury were occupied by Plympton Priory, probably the wealthiest monastic house in Devon. As a result, members of the clergy, including those of high rank, would have been in the area around Plymouth in Medieval times.

Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader said: “We’re really pleased to be able to add this important item to the city’s collections and very grateful to those who have supported our acquisition of it. It’s a really interesting object which, as well as being beautiful and valuable, also tells us something about the religious history of the region.”

To find out more about the city’s archaeology collections here.