Sapphire ring 'belonged to Anglo-Saxon or Viking royalty'

A unique gold and sapphire finger ring, found by a metal detectorist and  just purchased by the Yorkshire Museum, almost  certainly belonged to Anglo-Saxon or Viking royalty, very senior clergy or a leading member of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy, say historians.

Of very great historical importance, it is the only Anglo-Saxon era sapphire ever found in the ground in Britain. The only other sapphire from the period is the one that the Queen wears in her Imperial State Crown, used at the opening of  Parliament. Known as  St. Edward’s sapphire, this latter gem was once part of King Edward the Confessor’s finger ring and is now the oldest gem in the British crown jewels.

The association of sapphires with high status – demonstrated by St. Edward’s gem – suggests that the sapphire ring, just purchased by the Yorkshire Museum, is of very substantial historical significance. It was found in a field some six miles to the south of York by a local metal detectorist, Michael Greenhorn, a  railway technician, was subsequently declared treasure and has now been bought by the museum for £35,000.

It’s very likely that the ring belonged originally to an Anglo-Saxon Archbishop of York, one of the Earls of Northumbria or a senior member of one of Anglo-Saxon England’s royal families. 

But narrowing down the field may not be an impossibility. For the Yorkshire Museum is to launch a multi-disciplinary investigation to unlock the secrets of their newly acquired and unique piece of treasure.

Although the ring probably dates from the early 10th to the mid 11th century, it could be much earlier, conceivably even from the 7th century. So the museum’s first task will be to narrow down the age range by looking for stylistic parallels in other pieces of Anglo-Saxon and other first millennium AD jewellery.

Secondly they want to better understand the sophisticated technology used to create the ring - especially the gold work. The precious metal alloy is of a very high standard – 90% gold, 8% silver and 2% copper.

The museum, in York, also plans to track down the ultimate origin of the sapphire itself. It’s possible that it came originally from India or Sri Lanka and a special  scanning electron microscopy examination of the gem will almost certainly be carried out to identify trace elements and ascertain its geological background.

This may also help to reconstruct its pre-Anglo-Saxon history. Is it likely to have been imported into England or Europe from thousands of miles away in Anglo-Saxon times, or is it more likely that it was imported in Roman times and re-used in various different high status roles for hundreds of years before it was lost south of York a millennium or more ago.

Microscopic examination of  ware marks on the ring may also shed light on its history – as might a detailed historical examination of the area around where it was found .

The Yorkshire ring, weighing 10.2 grams,  is 25.5 millimetres in diameter, and is adorned with a six millimetre deep-blue sapphire and pieces of red glass, all set into the gold.

In medieval times, sapphires were seen as magical objects – capable of protecting kings and other members of the ruling elite against assassination. They were seen as particularly powerful against death by poisoning! In the medieval mind, the ability of a sapphire to combat poison could even be tested - by swinging the gem above a spider. If the creature died, then the sapphire was seen as being in good working order.

Sapphires were also regarded as high status health aids (able to cure a range of complaints) – and as a guarantee of morality, capable of reducing human lust and impurity of thought.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Assessor

£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...

Power & Gas Business Analyst / Subject Matter Expert - Contract

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Power & Gas Business Analyst/Subject Ma...

Year 6 Teacher needed for 1 Term- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 6 larger then life teach...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering