History of Posey Rings – British Museum

History of Posey Rings – British Museum

Gold posey or posy ring

England, 18th century AD

Many are the stars I see but in my eye no star like thee.

The term posy (or posey) is based on the French ‘poésy’ and describes the verse, rhyme or other inscription with which such rings were engraved. Here the inscription reads:

Many are thee starrs I see yet in my eye no starr like thee.

The ring below is in the `British Museum, Room 46: Europe 1400-1800. Diameter: 1.500cm. Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks.

Sources: S. Bury, An introduction to sentimental (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1985) C. Oman, British rings 800-1914 (London, Batsford, 1974) O.M. Dalton, Catalogue of the finger rings, (London, British Museum, 1912) J. Evans, English posies and posy rings (Oxford University Press, 1931).

The tradition of giving gold finger rings, engraved with mottoes, at betrothals or wedding ceremonies developed in Europe from the 16th century onwards. The practice gained in popularity and continued until the late 18th century.

These Posey Rings could, however, be given on many other occasions as tokens of friendship or loyalty. In fact Poseys have also been found on many 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. A few customers would supply their own composition for the goldsmith to engrave.

The outside of the hoop was often decorated to enhance the message or to form part of the message itself. Coloured enamels could be used, or chased motifs, like the sixteen stars on this example. The inscriptions were usually enamelled in black, which made them easier to read, although very few survive with all their enamel. 


Posey Ring - BM


Source:  The British Museum 

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