Northern Ireland

Gold 'posy' ring found in County Antrim field

Two views of the ring Image copyright National Museums Northern Ireland
Image caption The engraving on the ring translates as 'look on the giver, not the gift'

A gold ring engraved with a romantic message has been unearthed more than 300 years after it was lost.

Treasure hunter Tom Ross found the rare 'posy' ring in a ploughed field near Newtownabbey, County Antrim.

The delicate ring, which has been dated to the late 1600s and is 85% gold, bears the Old English inscription "I noght on gift bot gifer".

That translates as: "Look not on the gift, but the giver".

Also known as a betrothal ring, it pre-dates the custom of proposing with an engagement ring, but essentially served the same purpose - men and women exchanged them from the 1500s onwards to symbolise their future commitment to each other.

Mr Ross, 69, told a treasure trove inquest in Belfast Coroners' Court that he initially thought his find in September last year was a worthless trinket.

Image copyright David Young
Image caption Treasure hunter Tom Ross initially thought the delicate gold ring was a worthless trinket

"I thought it was a bit of rubbish," the retired oil distributor told coroner Suzanne Anderson.

Inscription tradition

He later added: "In the last 60 years there have been funfairs on that field, motorbike racing, point to point racing. There has been a lot of activity there so I thought that's where it came from."

It was only after Mr Ross, who took up metal detecting four years ago as a hobby, showed the ring to a fellow treasure hunter in England that he realised it could be valuable.

He passed the item to museum experts in Northern Ireland who were able to establish its true significance.

Elise Taylor, curator of applied art at National Museums Northern Ireland, told the court that it was tradition to have an inscription on the rings.

She said that the name posy related to the French word for poem - poesy.

The jewellery expert outlined to Ms Anderson one theory as to how the ring ended up in the field in County Antrim.


"There was evidence of a church and graveyard in the adjoining field which could have been there at that period of time so many people would have traversed over this field," she said.

Explaining that the ring was very light, Ms Taylor speculated that the owner may not even have realised it had dropped from her finger.

"In the cold weather fingers shrink and rings can be lost," she said.

"Quite possibly she would not have noticed the ring was lost until she got home."

Ms Anderson declared the ring to be officially treasure - a ruling that means it will now be handed over to the British Museum for valuation.

"Very many congratulations and well done for making such a lovely find Mr Ross," she said.

But the pensioner will not be hanging up the metal detector just yet.

After the inquest Mr Ross revealed that when Ms Taylor accompanied him back to the field earlier this year to examine the site she lost her own earring.

"I am going to have to go back and have a look for it now," he said.