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Harborough Museum

Posy ring

Posy ring

The Posy Ring originated in the Middle Ages, most popular during the 13th century through to 16th century. ‘Posy’ denotes a short rhyme or motto derived from the French ‘poesie’ for poetry.

The Posy ring on display at Harborough Museum is formed with a simple gold band, engraved on the outside with a short inscription. The engraving on the ring is etched in Old French and reads ‘canc departir’, or ‘sans departir’, which in English means for without parting or without division. It is thought to be an abbreviation of the saying ‘mon coeur avez sans departir’ (you have my heart without parting).

Posy Rings were given as gifts, representing love or friendship, they would contain a personalised phrase engraved in Old French, Old English or Latin. Posy rings that date before the 14th century were principally engraved in a Lombardic-style script, which was later replaced by a Gothic-style text. Many rings were also colourfully enamelled.

The posy ring can be seen in the ‘Religion and Belief’ case.

In medieval times when religion was a prominent part of everyday life, it was common for Posy Rings to be engraved with figures of saints or religious phrases. The ring could therefore also function as a religious talisman.

A ring from the V&A Museum with a depiction of a person.
A similar ring in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Image courtesy of the V&A.

By the 17th century, Posy Rings were more commonly plain on the outside, with an inscription on the inside. They went out of fashion by the end of the 18th century; however, it was from the simple plain gold Posy Ring that the wedding band originated.

Thank you to our volunteers for researching and writing this entry.

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