Gold signet ring from North-West Essex by Unknown Artist

Decorated with Anglo-Saxon motifs including birds and interlace ornamentation, this spectacular gold signet ring has been dated to AD 580–650.


2.6 cm across widest part of hoop
Art Fund grant:
£13,500 ( Total: £55,000)
Acquired in:
Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Significantly, the decorations on the ring are drawn from both Roman-Christian and north European-pagan traditions, speaking of a formative period in early English history when Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were emerging at the same time as Christianity was being introduced from the Continent. The hoop of the ring features a central panel bearing an interlace design, between two panels each containing a pair of birds with crossed wings. Engraved on the bezel, within a rectangular frame of punched dots, is a belted human figure holding a cross-headed staff in one hand and a bird of prey in the other. While the identities of the maker and original owner are unknown, the quality and size of the piece indicate that it is a high-status item, possibly belonging to royalty. It will be exhibited at Saffron Walden Museum as a star treasure, and will be presented in a newly created display thanks to a separate grant given through the Art Fund’s Treasure Plus programme.


Found by metal detectorist, Tony Carter, in Saffron Walden, North West Essex, in November 2011.

Venue details

Saffron Walden Museum Museum Street, SAFFRON WALDEN Essex CB10 1JL 01799 510333

Entry details

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £1.50)

1 Mar – 31 Oct Tue – Sat, 10am – 5pm Sun and Banks Hols (including Bank Hol Mondays), 2pm – 5pm 1 Nov – 28 Feb Tue – Sat, 10am – 4.30pm Sun and Banks Hols (including Bank Hol Mondays), 2pm – 4.30pm Closed Mondays (excluding Bank Holiday Mondays) and 24 – 25 Dec