Long before today’s couples were engraving their engagement and wedding rings with initials, dates and short messages, lovers of old were engraving secret messages of passion, devotion, friendship and faith on poesy rings.
History of Poesy Rings
Poesy rings also spelt posie, posy or posey, are rings with a short inscription on their inner or outer surface. These rings derived their name from the French word “poésie” meaning poem due to the short sayings engraved.
Poesy rings were popular from the latter half of the Middle Ages (15th – 17th century) in England and France as a lovers’ gift.
The language used for inscriptions was Norman French (Old French), Old English and Latin. Until 1350, engravers used a script with rounded capital letters which is known as Lombardic while for later examples, the Gothic script was used.
The quotes engraved were usually from contemporary courtship stories or books. However, in medieval times, when the religion was a big part of everyday life, it was also common to engrave saint’s figures or religious texts next to romantic expressions. This way poesy rings served as both a gift of love and religious talisman. Poesy rings were also exchanged between kingdoms and religious houses as a sign of support.
Interestingly, poesy rings from Medieval period have the words engraved on the outer surface of the band, while the later rings feature engravings inside the band.
Posey rings were much like today’s personalized jewellery. This was a chance to have a unique jewellery piece that held a special meaning for the giver and the recipient. However, certain inscriptions appear on multiple rings indicating that the goldsmiths had a book of phrases from which their clients could choose. Much like today!
Posey Rings Today
Today there are very few jewellers designing posy ring lines as such rings are not that popular any longer. That is also the reason why very few of them use the word “poesy” in connection with new collections.
Nowadays, we do not call engraved gold bands poesy rings, but we technically could as modern engraved rings feature inscription inside and have basically the same idea to personalize.
The desire to personalize jewellery with engraved messages has never faded. It just transformed into something new.
True poesy rings can be found in the hands of private collectors or in museums like the Victoria & Albert in London.
Cover image credit: Pyrrha