Belfast Telegraph

Treasure-hunter unearths rare ring

A lovers' gold ring engraved with an Old English romantic message has been unearthed by a treasure hunting great-grandfather more than 300 years since it was lost.

Pensioner Tom Ross found the rare 'Posy' ring while sweeping his metal detector over a ploughed farmer's field near Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.

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

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

He later added: "In the last 60 years there have been fun fairs 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 the ring was originally coated in black and white glass, most of which had worn off in the centuries since.

She said it was tradition to have an inscription on the rings and explained 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 the field in Ballywalter near Newtownabbey.

"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 to get to," 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 won't be able to hang up the metal detector just yet.

In an amusing twist, 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 laughed.

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