Posy Ring “Content is a treasure”
This posy ring with a D-section hoop bears the engraved inscription “Content is a treasure” in italic script on the interior of the gold band. The exterior of the hoop is chased with relief ornament foliage and traces of opaque white and translucent red enamel. The maker’s mark – initials “IG” set inside a shield-shaped punch – is visible inside the hoop, but the name of the goldsmith remains unidentified. The ring is in good, wearable condition.
Posy rings derive their name from the French word poesie meaning poetry and are characterized by mottoes or inscriptions engraved in either prose or verse. While rings bearing amatory inscriptions date back to the late medieval period, posy rings with poetic expressions of love and affection enjoyed great popularity in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England and find mention in plays by William Shakespeare, such as in the Merchant of Venice and Hamlet (III, 2, 162: “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring”). Posy rings were customarily exchanged between friends, relatives, and lovers, often at betrothals and wedding ceremonies. In many instances, the message was concealed inside the hoop, and its content only known to the wearer and the giver.
Joan Evans records the motto “Content is a continual treasure” (Evans 1931, p. 30). See also rings in the British Museum, London, with the inscription “Contents a treasure” (Dalton 1912, no. 1140), “Content is a Kingdom” (Dalton 1912, no. 1139), and posy rings with chased exterior, showing lover’s knots, hearts or flowers, and foliage (Evans 1961, nos. 1202.71, 1202.111, and 1202.384). For a history of posy rings with an extensive list of posies, see Evans 1931 and exh. cat. A Garland of Love 1907. For further information see Dalton 1912, pp. 174; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74; Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978; and Oman 1974, pp. 39.