The History of Poesy Rings

Rings with inscriptions date back nearly as long as writing has existed. Signet rings with images, often carved stone intaglios but also solid gold or silver, can be dated to Ancient Sumeria, Egypt and the Mediterranean. Once writing developed it quickly made its way onto rings, particularly in Egyptian and Greek cultures.

An early Byzantine marriage ring in the collection of the British Museum, with a man and woman depicted in profile on the front, and alternating images of men and women on each medallion on the band; they are thought to be saints.

The earliest wedding rings date to Ancient Egypt and were eventually incorporated by the Greeks and Romans. By the time of the Byzantine Empire, marriage rings featuring religious inscriptions were common and as these tokens became to be associated with love, during the age of the Norman conquest and courtly grace, the poesy ring was born.

This ring, from the collection of the British Museum, is inscribed “I dare not Show the loue I owe”

Exchanged as small gifts with hidden messages, many of these rings were composed before the English language was standardized, and so the words and spellings are wonderful time capsules of the era.

Another ring, from the collection of the British Museum, is inscribed with
“*TO*YOV*ABOVEN*ANI*CREATVRE
MY*HARTE*TO*THE*DETHE*SHAL*ENDVRE”
(To you above any creature, my heart to the death shall endure)

We reference many of these old inscriptions when we make our poesy rings. Often the same words can be found with multiple spellings on different rings, or the spelling idiosyncrasies of the era such as the interchangeable u/v* or an extra e that has since fallen off the ends of words will be incorporated into our designs.

A collection of our posey rings, which can be viewed at www.LockandSpoon.com

Below is a list of some of the phrases on rings in the collection of the British Museum. We’ve kept the original spelling as it is inscribed on the rings and, where applicable, we’ve included additional context in the form of word breaks, such as dots, x’s, or stars as they exist in the original pieces.

Too light to requite

If riches increase, Set not thine heart upon them

MARIE MEE

Thine most sure till death

Loue + Live + Long

IN x ABSENCE x BE x TREV x

A frenly remembrance

My loue to thee shall endles be

MY FAITH IS FIRME

Be kind and constant

If we be true & pure Or loves will endure

As true to thee as death to me

Loue is the cause Lett loue continne

NOT THE GIFT BVT THE GIVER

A frends gift

All I r’fuse thee I chuse

My friend is Dead my Joys, are fled

mor trew then trid

Where two agree both happy be

As trewe to me as i to the

bee true in hart

All I refues and thee i chus

NO ‘ FREND ‘ TO ‘ FAYTH 

The (heart with an arrow through it) suffereth for ye (eye?) offen c

Faithles to non yet faithfull to one

I + LIVE + IN * HOPE

Love til death

Youres am I untill I die 1662

Loue alone made vs two one

Keepe Promiss

My loue is true to non but you

I chuse thee till life refuse me

Let wisdum bee thy gide

I loue you

I fancy none but you alone

Love me

A kiss for this

All for Love

Death Parts United Harts

LET=LIKING=LAST

*TO*YOV*ABOVEN*ANI*CREATVRE

MY*HARTE*TO*THE*DETHE*SHAL*ENDVRE

Neuer look but remember A S

I dare not Show the loue I owe

Hearts vnited live contented

* A * FRIND * TO *THE * END

The . love . of . the . contenteth . me .

Be true, In, Harte

be trv In hart

In loue abide till death divide

All I refuse and thee I chuse

IN LOVE LINKT FAST WHILE LIFE DOTH LAST

In loue abide till death deuide

A-bide With Pacience

Vnited (two hearts) death onely parts

In thy Sight is my delight

Pari iugo dulcis tractus

Nos (2 hearts) unis

Not the vallue but my love

NOT . THE . GYFT . BVT . THE . GEVER

Remember the giver

* LOVE * IS * A * IOY *

A happy pair that faithfull are

The gift of a frend

vnited harts death only parts

Be trew and constant

Be Just to me

CONTINEW CONSTANT

x Long x last x our x love x ~

BE . TREV . IN . HART

Only death shall separat love

Thought absent yet constant

In Constancy lets live and dy

Rather death then false of faith

Love merits all things

None So true as I to you

BE TRVE + TO + THE + END +

True to thee Ile ever be

None to me I love like thee

My harte is your

my heart and I untill I die

My . (heart) . you .haue .& . yours .I. craue

Hearts content will not repent

two (two hearts) soe tide let none devide

In unitie lets live contented

x I x AM x YOVRES x

Never to chainge

NEVER TO CHANG

 * I LYKE + MY + CHOYS *

In thee my choyes i doe reioyes

Loue eur not the Giuft but th giuer

I loue none but thee alone

Loue is my token

Joy in none but you alone

Far apart yet nigh in (heart)

In . hart . loue . mee x

Let . no . calamitye + Seperate . amitie *

-A-FRENDS+GYFTE

No Tresure Like Content

Y for a kis take this

(Two hearts) unighted lives Contented

This and the giver is thine for ever

 I + LYVE + IN + HOPE

*Have you noticed this (particularly in architectural inscriptions?) Dating back to the Roman era, where Latin didn’t differentiate between the u/v sounds–kind of like how the letter ‘C’ can be pronounced with a soft (s) or hard (k) sound. As the English language developed it borrowed heavily from the Latin alphabet, and this quirk was maintained though the middle ages, until the letters ‘u’ and ‘v’ started to acquire the phonetic sounds they have today.

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