Posy rings acquired their name from the word “posy” or “poesy” based on the French word 'poésy', to describe a motto or poem inscribed inside a ring. These rings were popular from the late medieval period onwards. The rings portrayed secret messages of love between the giver and the recipient. It was said that if the words were worn against the skin it made the message more poignant.
In medieval times religion was part of everyday life, it was often common for Saint’s pictures or religious sayings to appear on the rings along with a message of a romantic or friendly nature. The ring could act as a religious talisman or a token of love or friendship.
The phrases were often written in Old French, Latin or Old English. Until circa 1350, the lettering was written in a script with rounded capital letters called Lombardic. Later examples used Gothic script. Specific inscriptions appeared on multiple rings which indicated the goldsmiths of the day had a book of stock phrases from which the customer would pick. Some of the most written inscriptions were “A true friend’s gift” and “a loving wife during life.”
Some truly rare examples had pictures instead of words. They would put a heart or an eye symbol instead of the written word. A few examples had coloured enamel to add a bit of colour to the piece. The Victoria and Albert Museum has one of the largest collections of posy rings. Sadly, many have been lost or melted down over time so not many of them still exist today.
Like much personalised jewellery today, the posy ring gave the wearer a chance to have something completely unique to what their neighbour had. They could give the goldsmith a saying that was truly personal to them and the special person with whom they would give the ring to.
If you would like to send a secret message to a loved one this February here at Berganza we have a vast collection of rare and unique posy rings. A truly personal and heartfelt gift for that special someone.