An ancient gold ring buried in Oxfordshire for hundreds of years has been hailed ‘the find of a lifetime’ by the metal detectorist who unearthed it.
Paul Wood, 64, a driving instructor from Upton, near Poole, Dorset, uncovered the treasure while exploring land with the Metal Detectives Group.
And such was the quality of the seal ring, which dates back to between the late 1500s and early 1700s, it was named ‘Artefact of the Year’ by the group which has more than 1,000 members.
Mr Wood said: “I’ve been metal detecting since the mid-1970s and this is a find of a lifetime for me. It could be 500 years old. I’ve found broken bits of ring before but never anything like this. It’s in beautiful condition. There isn’t a blemish on it.”
After going through the usual Portable Antiquities Scheme procedures and being examined by the British Museum, the ring is now due to be auctioned at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers Antiquities Auction on November 26. The estimate is £10,000.
Mark Becher, who runs the Metal Detectives Group from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, said: “I organised the event where the ring was found at Bampton, near Witney, Oxfordshire, on August 1, 2016. It took place on land sold off for housing development. I asked if we could explore the land before the houses went up.
“The homes have been built now. But for Paul, that ring, which is steeped in history and worth thousands of pounds, could have been lost forever.
“When Paul found it, he was so excited – we all were. We knew it was special. It’s a high-end object that would have belonged to a person of wealth and importance. It demonstrates craftsmanship, skill, detail and definition. It’s just amazing. Gold comes out of the ground exactly as it goes in.”
The ring is engraved with an elaborate coat of arms and crest which is believed to represent the Skynner family. According to research carried out by Mr Wood, the Skynners were important in the Bampton region from the 13th Century onwards.
“I found variations of the Skynner crest and traced the Le Skiniers who came over to England during the Norman conquest in the 11th century,” said Mr Wood. “There was a Henry Le Skynner in 1287 in Brampton. The evidence is compelling.”
James Brenchley, Hansons’ head of Antiquities, Ancient Art and Classical Coins, said: “It’s a wonderful find and, due to it being rather small, may have belonged to a lady.
“The coat of arms features an elegant chevron decorated with small dots between three birds’ heads. Above the shield is a well detailed helm, from which emerges elaborate mantling on either side.
“Just above the helm, the crest consists of another bird’s head rising from a battlement, its mouth open and neck decorated with thin lines to indicated ruffled feathers. A similar example can be found at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.”
The seal ring will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS, during their November 26-27 Antiquities, Ancient Art and Classical Coins. Entries invited until November 7.
FREE Antiquities Valuations
James Brenchley will be available for free antiquities valuations at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS on November 7 and December 5, 10am- 2pm, and on December 15, 10am-2pm, at The Saleroom, Normansfield Theatre, Teddington, TW11 9PS. To find out more, email [email protected]