17th-century gold ring in London saleroom

A rare, 17th-century gold lady’s ring unearthed by a metal detectorist in a Norfolk field could sell for thousands in an upcoming London sale.

It was on October 4, 2020, that Alan Rumsby a retired carpenter aged 75 returned briefly to a stubble field in Roydon, Norfolk with his XP Deus metal detector after unsuccessfully searching the area several times earlier.

However, on this occasion the first signal from his XP Deus detector revealed a gold ring, hidden at a depth of 9 inches. This ring will be offered for sale at Noonans Mayfair in a sale of Jewellery, Watches, Silver and Objects of Vertu on March 12, 2024. It is expected to fetch between £14,000-16,000.

Alan explained: “I have never found anything made of gold in over 10 years of detecting so was really excited. It was only after it was taken to the Museum that I realised how significant this discovery was! The British Museum had originally declared an interest in acquiring the ring but now two years later the ring has been disclaimed, so I am able to sell it. I intend to use the money, which will be shared with the landowner, on a holiday for my wife and myself.”

Nigel Mills, Artefact and Coin Expert at Noonans, added: “The ring is historically important because it is extremely rare to find a seal ring of this period that was worn by a woman. This is indicated using a lozenge-shaped coat of arms on the bezel of the ring. The arms are divided into four, each representing her ancestral family heritage, namely Ashfield; Tendring; Botelier and finally Mapersall. The five-pointed star in the centre of the arms represents a third son so we believe the ring was owned by Dorothy Ashfield who was born in 1594, the eldest daughter of the third son Thomas Ashfield of Hopton in Suffolk and his wife Ellen Holditch of Ranworth in Norfolk.”

He continued: “The find spot is close to the old hall of Brockdish which was owned by John Tendring whose family arms appears on the second quadrant of the ring bezel as a fess (horizontal band) with a crescent between two chevrons. The name Ashfield originates in Suffolk and Shropshire, meaning a field with ash trees.”