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The History Behind … Posy rings
In the latest installment of The History Behind, National Jeweler explores the origin of posy rings, one of the first examples of personalized jewelry.
Also spelled posie or poesy, these rings derived their name from the French word “poésie,” or poem, because of the short sayings with which they were engraved that were religious, friendly or amorous in nature.
“It’s continued down through history,” observed Mary Borchert, a historian with Antique Jewelry University. “Nowadays, we don’t call it a posy ring but we technically could because it has the inscription inside.”
According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, posy rings were popular from the latter half of the Middle Ages, which extended from the 5th to 15th century.
Like much personalized jewelry today, the posy ring provided the wearer the chance to don something completely different than what their neighbor had. They could dictate a saying that was personal to them and the person with whom they were exchanging the ring.
In her 25 years in the jewelry industry, Borchert said she has seen only a few true posy rings.
Because they are so old--the above example dates from the 1300s--most end up in museums like the Victoria & Albert in London or in the hands of private collectors.
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