Treasure of the British Museum: A Gold Posy Ring

Gold ‘posy’ ring   England, 18th century AD   The term ‘posy’, based on the French ‘poésy’, describes the amatory verse or rhyming motto with which the rings are engraved. Here the inscription reads: ‘Many are thee starrs I see yet in my eye no starr like thee’.

The practice of giving gold hoop rings engraved with mottoes at betrothals or weddings was common in England from the sixteenth century onwards, and continued until the late eighteenth century. ‘Posy’ rings could, however, be given on many other occasions as tokens of friendship or loyalty, and ‘posies’ are also found on religious and memorial rings. The inscription is generally found on the interior of the ring, hidden to everyone except the wearer. Most of the sentimental mottoes were taken from popular literature of the time, such as ‘chapbooks’ (pamphlets), or from collections on the language of courtship. A few customers would supply their own composition for the goldsmith to engrave.

Next week, The Final Treasure     Rita Bay


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