Gold Posy Ring “BE CONSTANT”
The wide gold band with D-section has grooved edges and bears inside the engraved inscription “BE CONSTANT” in capital letters. The shield-like punch with maker’s mark inside the hoop shows the conjoined initials ‘S’ (back to front) and ‘R.’ While the mark is distinctive, the name of the goldsmith has yet to be identified. The ring shows signs of wear through age and is in good, wearable condition.
“Posy rings,” their name deriving from the term poesie meaning poetry, are rings with mottoes or inscriptions on a plain gold band, either in 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 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, and at betrothals and wedding ceremonies. In many instances the message was concealed inside the hoop and its content only known to the wearer and giver.
Joan Evans records a variant motto on a posy ring at the Norwich Castle Museum, Norwich “BE CONSTANT EVER” (Evans 1931, p. 25; acc. no. NWHCM: 1894.76.111) and a similar motto was found on a previously catalogued ring by Les Enluminures “Be constant and true” (R 732). A further variation is found on a ring in the Museum of London “Continv constant” (inv. no. 62.4/17). All relate to the constancy of love.
For a history of posy rings with an extensive list of posies, see Evans 1931 and Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, 1907. For further information, see Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978, and Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.