The 18th Century 'By This Token You Are Bespoken' Posy Ring
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In 1750 William Dacey published a book titled "The Best and Compleatest Academy of Compliments yet extant. Being wit and mirth improv'd by the most elegant expressions used in the art of courtship...", one of which was the phrase 'By This Token You Are Bespoken'.
'Posy' is derived from 'poesy' or 'poetry'. In the medieval period many rings bore posy inscriptions in Latin or French, the languages frequently spoken by the affluent elites. Later, inscriptions in English became more usual, although the lack of standardised spelling might surprise a modern reader. The inscription is generally found on the interior of the ring, hidden to everyone except the wearer and most of the sentimental mottoes were taken from the popular literature of the time. In fact, love inscriptions often repeat each other.
In the later 16th century, 'posy' specifically meant a short inscription. A posy is described in contemporary literature as a short 'epigram' of less than one verse. The practice of giving rings engraved with mottoes at betrothals or weddings was common in England from the 16th century onwards, and continued until the late 18th century. Joan Evans assumed that posy rings were principally used by/between lovers and distinguished four contexts for the giving of posy rings by one lover to another: betrothals, weddings, St Valentine's Day and sometimes on occasions of mourning.
There are some remains to the niello fill of the lettering and outer filling. There is some usual wear commensurate with the ring's age to the band. 1.20 grams, 18.10mm overall, 16.44mm internal diameter.
Size J½ UK/AU, 5 US/CA, 50 FR/RU, 15¾ DE
Provenance: Acquired from an established BNTA and AIAA registered ancient art dealer. Formerly from the Albert Ward collection, Essex, UK; acquired on the UK antiques market between 1974-1985.
See Cf. Evans, J., English Posies and Posy Rings, OUP, London, 1931, p.28, for this posie. See the Portable Antiquities Scheme Database, id. LON-AA2432, for a worn ring which appears to have three rows of dimples also, dated 16th-17th century AD.
Important Notes: This item is excluded from our Free Resizing service. As an ancient artefact we will not alter it.
A D-Shape wedding ring if flat on the inside and rounded on the outside to provide a close, comfortable fit.
Want to know more? See our Wedding Ring Buying Guide.
What if I'm not certain of the size I need?
If you're in the UK just select “I'm Not Sure” and in the box with your ring we'll include a finger measure, and a resizing form. Just fill out the form and send it and the ring to us within 14 days of receiving your order and we'll resize it. We'll also do this for you if you're in the UK and select the No Resizing option.
Which rings qualify?
Simply put, if you see a size picker on the ring page, then it qualifies. We offer Free Resizing on rings with a purchase price of £250 or more, except where stated in the ring's description.
How does it work?
Pick the size you need and we'll resize the ring before sending it to you. This adds a few extra days before despatch as our goldsmith has to work on your ring; with antique and vintage pieces they're one of a kind so we take time to ensure it's done well.
How long does resizing take?
Depending on our workload and the complexity of the ring's structure a resize can take between 3 and 10 working days (most commonly 5).
Will a ring resize well?
Some rings resize better than others. The options for resizing on each ring's page are specifically for that ring, based on its current size and what sizes it could safely resize to.
I don't see the size picker?
We offer Free Resizing on rings with a purchase price of £250 or more, except where stated in the ring's description. If there's no size picker then it likely doesn't qualify. If you think the ring qualifies but still don't see the picker then send us an email and we'll double-check for you.
Can it be resized?
Simply put, if you see a size picker on the ring page, then it qualifies for Free Resizing. We offer Free Resizing on rings with a purchase price of £250 or more, except where stated in the ring's description.
What will be delivered?
Your ring will arrive inside a large ring box, inside a storage/presentation box. Alongside that we'll include an envelope containing a keepsake letter about your specific jewellery and its history for the recipient. If the description stated the ring would contain any additional paperwork then that will be included in the envelope. Rings are delivered in an unbranded box, as we know many people want their gifts to be a surprise. If you are outside the UK we are required by your country to include a customs declaration on the packaging, so we can't keep those as hush-hush.
How quickly will I receive it?
Orders with Free Resizing: If you've selected a different size from the ring's current size then our goldsmith will work to resize your ring. Depending on workload it usually takes 3-5 working days, though on complex rings or large resizes we may need a little extra time. Once we've completed your resize then delivery times are as follows:
UK: We aim to dispatch within one working day, and we use next day tracked services for our shipping. We also perform some additional fraud checks on our orders because of the high value of our antiques. As an example, most people who place an order on a Monday morning will get their items Tuesday or Wednesday, but please factor in that fraud checks and shipping during times of national uncertainty mean this cannot be guaranteed. We always provide dispatch notifications and tracking information to you as soon as we have it.
International: We require one additional day to prepare customs documents. The service estimates delivery 3-5 working days to Europe and 5-7 days to the rest of the world.
How do you determine diamond carat?
With antique jewellery you wouldn't want to remove and re-set the diamonds just to weigh them. Diamond carat estimates are done based on assessment of the size, shape and cut using a digital calliper. Our presentations of diamond carat are a guide, but should not be considered a guarantee.
How do you determine gold carat?
Many pieces of jewellery are hallmarked to say the carat of the gold. Where this is present we present that. Where it is not we use chemical testing to determine the carat of the gold on the surface of the shank. Our presentations of gold carat are a guide, but should not be considered a guarantee.
How do you determine age?
We use three methods together to determine age. When the assay office has used hallmarking letters to specify the year of manufacture we use those as our guide, when clear and unambiguous these give an exact year we present. If there are no hallmarks or the hallmarks are hard to discern on older antiques we factor in the style of the ring and the cut of the diamonds. The way diamonds have been cut over the centuries give a good guide to how best to date a ring, and jewellery, like clothing, has a fashion coherent with its era. Sometimes we also obtain jewellery in sets, where the dating of the other pieces from that set can act as a suggestion of age for the ring. Our presentations of year or era are a guide, but should not be considered a guarantee.
Found the ring you love but it's not your size? Don't worry we're here to help.
We offer a Free Resizing service, see the page for details. If you're unsure about a particular ring you can start a live chat on the site, or drop us an email to ask (we're very friendly!). For rings that include Free Resizing you'll find a size selector on the page. Simply pick the size you need, or select 'Not Sure'.
Remember with any thicker banded rings you may need a half size larger than usual.
The easiest way to make sure a ring is going to fit someone is to ask their ring size, perhaps they already know or have a ring that fits already that can be used as a guide.
If you're looking to keep your ring a surprise you can take a ring you know fits to any High Street jeweller and they'll easily tell you the size for free.
Another option is to use an app, there are many available that show UK sizes, check your App Store to see what's available options.
If you're not sure at all you can pick "Not Sure" on the resizing dropdown and we'll send a finger measure and a resizing form with the ring so you can check and send it back to us to be resized.
We're here to help and you can talk to us on live chat or drop us an email if you have any questions.
Too big or too small? We'll get it just right. Available for rings with a purchase price of £250 or more, except where stated in the ring's description. Click to learn more.
Every ring comes with a high quality presentation box, packaged carefully (and discreetly just in case we're delivering a surprise)