Gold posy ring from Modbury added to City’s treasure collections
Plymouth’s archaeology collections have been boosted by a new item of officially recorded Treasure.
The gold finger ring, known as a posy ring, dates from around 1654-1686 and was probably a gift from a lover to their sweetheart.
It’s been officially classed as Treasure because it’s over 300 years old and contains more than 10% precious metal content. It was purchased with the help of The Headley Trust, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.
Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader said: “This is another great addition to the city’s collections and we’re very grateful for the funding support we’ve received. We’ve acquired a number of treasure items over the last few years and each of them reveal some fascinating facts, not just about Plymouth but also about the period of history they date from.”
While the modern description of a posy is a small bunch of flowers, its definition during the Middle Ages was ‘a short motto or line of verse inside a ring’. The text on the interior of this ring is inscribed in italics and says ‘Not the gift but the giver’.
From the 1400’s through to the 1600’s rings like this were popular love tokens in England and France. When worn the plain gold exterior of the ring could be seen. Meanwhile, the wearer would have the inscription held against their skin – a secret from a loved one to another.
This type of ring is usually cast to produce a regular hoop shape with a ‘D’ shaped cross section. It’s then hand-finished to create a plain, smooth exterior.
This particular example bears a maker’s mark, a stamped TS believed to be that of a man called Thomas Sharpe. He was a London-based goldsmith who is known to have been working from around 1654-1686. This information has helped to date the ring.
It was discovered in the parish of Modbury in 2017 by metal detectorist Mr Jon Day and recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This national scheme run by the British Museum and National Museum Wales records thousands of archaeological objects found by members of the public each year.
The ring joins a number of other Treasure items in the collections at The Box including a Post-medieval silver seal matrix, a Medieval gold and sapphire finger ring, and a Bronze Age gold finger ingot and studded bracelet.
You can find out more about our archaeology collections here.