Wednesday, 20th March, 2013
A SAPPHIRE ring found in a field south of York by a metal detecting enthusiast is probably much older than originally thought and may have been owned by royalty, according to group of experts convened to examine the object.
Archaeologists say the Escrick Ring is likely to be from the 5th or 6th century, and nothing like it from that period has ever been found in the UK before.
The expert group, convened by the Yorkshire Museum in York, believes the ring could have royal connections.
Curator of archaeology at the museum Natalie McCaul said: “What this workshop has shown is that this sapphire ring is even more special than we had previously thought.
“Nothing like it has been found in this country from the 5th or 6th century.”
The ring was found by metal detectorist Michael Greenhorn, from York and District Metal Detecting Club, in 2009 as he searched a field near the village of Escrick.
It measures around 2.5cm across and is intricately made of gold, prestige glass and a large sapphire.
The initial assessment of its origin was that it was likely to be Anglo-Saxon or Viking, from the 10th or 11th century.
Now the expert group has dated it to a much earlier period.
They have also suggested the ring was made in Europe, possibly France, and that it would have belonged to a king, leader or consort – not a bishop which was a previous theory.
The wear on the ring also suggests that it could have been a brooch first, which was later made into a ring.
“It has been fantastic to hear the thoughts of some of the world’s leading experts and their suggestions will allow us to now go away and try and fit the ring into a historical timeframe,” Miss McCaul said.
“Hopefully this will lead us to finding out more about the ring and possibly even who might have owned it.”
The workshop was attended by more than 30 experts from across the UK and included a day of talks, presentations and discussion, the museum said.
The expert group concluded the sapphire in the ring was probably cut earlier, possibly during the Roman period, but the ring itself was specially made around the sapphire.
And, by looking at the wear on the ring they decided it was worn for at least 50 years before it was lost.
The gold hoop that forms the ring also looks slightly different to the main part of the ring, with suggestions being made that it was turned into a ring later, possibly from a brooch or mount.
A museum spokesman said another theory suggested during the meeting was that the ring was from a later period, perhaps the 8th or 9th centuries, but was inspired by earlier styles in both jewellery and perhaps surviving stonework in Yorkshire dating from the 5th or 6th centuries.
He said further research was underway, in particular a search for any further archaeology or historical information which can link the ring to 5th or 6th centuries.
This will be conducted initially by researchers from the University of Durham.
The Yorkshire Museum has raised £35,000 to buy the ring.
This has been made possible with grants of £10,000 from the Art Fund, £10,000 from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, £10,000 from the Headley Trust and £1,000 from the York Philosophical Society.