One of the earliest engagement rings Ireland has know has been found in Northern Ireland by Mr Tom Ross in a field which had been ploughed in Newtonabbey, County Antrim. Mr Ross, 69 found the Engagement ring while using his metal detector. Metal detecting has been a hobby of his for the past four years but many have spent years upon years of searching but to no avail. Mr. Ross only learned of the rings value when displaying the piece to some other metal detector enthusiasts in England. He was advised to pass it onto the museum of Northern Ireland which he duly did and the museum then concluded that the engagement ring was in fact a posy ring and dated it back from around the late 1600’s.
The delicate ring is 85% gold which would be slightly higher in gold content then 18 karat gold used today in most engagement rings. Later at a Belfast Coroners court Mr. Ross told an inquest that he initially though the ring to be a “worthless trinket” or “a bit of rubbish”. The gold ring bears an inscription in old English “I noght on gift bot gifer” which is today’s English translates to “Look not on the gift, but the giver”. Which is a nice sentiment. The ring in fact turned out to be a piece or rare Irish heritage.
Elise Taylor the curator of applied art at National Museums Northern Ireland told the court about the history of such rings and the various traditions of the time involving inscriptions etc. Ms Taylor explained – the ring is a betrothal ring and men and women exchanged them from the 1500’s onward to symbolism their future commitment to each other much like the engagement rings and wedding rings exchanged today. Sometimes called posy rings this was a name derived from the French word for poem which is Poesy.
So how did the ring come to be in the ground in the field ? Well speculation is that the field is next to an old church and graveyard whereby people used to cross the field to get to it. As any jeweler will tell you finger sizes will shrink or expand depending on the weather and on a cold morning the fingers of the wearer may have shrunk allowing the ring to slip off. The coroners court declared the ring to be officially treasure – which means that the treasure will be handed over for valuation by the British Museum. Well done Mr. Ross and thank you for your honesty and for sharing your find with the world.
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