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Stories by TimeLine Auctions

Emotional Moments In The History Of A Medieval Gold Ring

'The Ring

TimeLine Auctions vetting team must have shared expressions of unanimous approval as the hammer fell on Lot 0576 in our September, 2019 auction. The team’s combined academic research, and investigative deliberations, as they strove to eliminate any possibilities of forgery and fakery, had culminated in their unanimous decision to describe the lot as:
A magnificent and important gold finger ring; the plain hoop of rounded D-section with baluster shoulders showing diagonal raised line ornament and combed bar at junction with the broad octagonal 'pie' collet cell closed bezel, containing a polished octagonal garnet of superb quality, size and colour, with cabochon finish.

The auction catalogue added: This ring [..] would have been the property of a very eminent gentleman; certainly of nobility, or possibly even of Royal blood. [Its] dating is contemporary with the likely visits to the area of Edward I and, with the reference to the king hunting locally, it could well have been lost by a companion of the king during such a hunt. The ring is also unusual in having a garnet so carefully and skilfully shaped; unlike many of the period where simple cabochon or irregular shapes are seen.

We have no way of knowing, at this remove from the historical event, the precise cause of the ring’s loss in the distant 13th century; but, as humans, we can empathize with the wearer’s emotions. Despair probably welled up as he glanced at his hand and noticed an empty finger. A moment earlier it had carried what may have been his most cherished possession. Now it had fallen to oblivion on a patch of undrained low-lying marsh and scrubland on the outskirts of what became, centuries later, the city of Hull. King Edward the First had recently acquired its possession as a royal reserve where he and his entourage could enjoy falconry, wild boar hunting, and deer stalking. It is not beyond possibility that Edward himself was the loser who grieved over the sad misfortune.

Far into the future that has become the 21st century, the wheel of fortune spun once more. A modern hunter, equipped with a metal detector, swept the search coil of his machine over ground that, thanks to drainage and dyke construction, has become rich arable acres that would, at this juncture, prove unrecognizable to a Plantagenet monarch. Those among us who have experienced the emotional moment when a signal from a detector’s circuit indicates the close proximity of a non-ferrous metal object, will recognize the thrilling pleasure as a digging trowel turns a sod to disclose the glint of gold. The finder of this ring later negotiated all correct procedures for recording his find. The Portable Antiquities Scheme later wrote: As the object was found pre-Treasure Act 1996 it would not have been considered potential Treasure under the Treasure Trove law. The local county coroner has been notified, but as the finger ring was found pre-Treasure Act and is most likely a chance loss, it does not constitute Treasure Trove. As such, it does not need reporting as Treasure. Subsequent action after recording: returned to finder.
Allow me to add another pleasant emotional moment to those described above:
The Intaglio and Gemstone Rings section of Aaron Hammond’s magnificent collector’s and investor’s guide, Discovering Jewellery, illustrates and introduces 280 examples that have featured in TimeLine Auctions catalogues during the past fourteen years. One of them – indeed, the very ring under discussion here – topped the list of hammer prices for English lots with its winning bid of £23,750 inc. bp. Aaron Hammond expressed happy emotions on hearing that news.

Tanya Maijala, TimeLine Auctions, 18th June 2024