Gold 'posy' ring


British Museum

British Museum

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 between couples engaged to be married, or at weddings was common in England from the sixteenth century onwards. It continued until the late eighteenth century. 'Posy' rings could be given on many other occasions as tokens of friendship or loyalty. '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.

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 a range of motifs, like the sixteen stars on this example. The inscriptions were usually enamelled in black, which makes them easier to read, although very few survive with all their enamel. The language and the style of the inscription helps us to date them.

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  • Title: Gold 'posy' ring
  • Date Created: 1600/1799
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 17.97mm; Height: 2.83mm; Weight: 1.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: AF.1342
  • Production place: Made in England
  • Period/culture: Post-Medieval
  • Material: gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Franks, Augustus Wollaston


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