Mysterious sapphire ring saved

  • 22 July 2011

A unique gold ring found near York has been acquired by Yorkshire Museum with help from the Art Fund.

Sapphire Ring

Sapphire Ring

A unique gold ring found near York has been acquired by Yorkshire Museum with help from the Art Fund.

The ring was discovered by a metal detectorist in 2009 and declared treasure - but it is steeped in mystery. The intricate design was made by a highly skilled craftsman, but its style and material makes it hard to date because nothing like it has ever been found.

Natalie McCaul, assistant curator of archaeology, said: “This is a spectacular find – a very bold and beautiful ring. But what is most intriguing for us is nothing like this has ever been found before in this country, which makes it incredibly difficult to date."

The use of a sapphire (a stone most commonly used in the medieval period and reserved for the jewellery of kings and bishops) as well as the gold beading would suggest that it is from the Viking period (10th-11th centuries). However, the combination of gold, red and blue glass is a typically Anglian style (7th-9th centuries). It could be the case that the rare sapphire was used instead of the blue glass during this period to make the ring even more significant and expensive.

The Yorkshire Museum raised £35,000 to buy the ring, 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.

The ring will go on show in the museum in the next few weeks, but the mystery continues...