The Black Hart

A Brief History of Poesy Rings

28 July 2021

While the spelling varies, a poesy (posey, posy, posie) ring is a simple item - usually a gold ring with an inscription on the inside of a short poem or saying. These rings hold great sentimental value and were often given as love tokens or friendship symbols, which is reflected in the nature of the inscriptions (a poesy is a little poem).

This blog post comes after extensive research I did when designing custom wedding bands for my partner and myself for our upcoming wedding. While my ring needed to fit around my lovely engagement ring, I was given free reign with the ring I carved for my partner, and together we chose a poesy ring.

Happily, there are numerous examples of poesy rings in Museums and collections. The Ashmolean states that poesy rings were popular as early as the 5th century, with museum pieces often being dated between the 1500s to the 1800s. While we don't see poesy rings much now, any ring with a sentimental inscription could be considered a part of this long tradition.

Incredible collections in UK museums exist at the Ashmolean in Oxford and the V&A in London. I've included some that particularly appealed to me here. Scroll down for a list of other poesy inscriptions, and get in touch if you'd like to commission your own love token poesy ring.

Gold ring on a neutral surface. The ring is photographed from an angle so that an internal inscription is partially visible

This gold ring was made between the 17th and 18th centuries. It's inscription reads: "Wit wealth & beauty all do well But constant loue doth far excell" via British Museum

Gold ring on a neutral surface. The ring is photographed from an angle so that an internal inscription is partially visible reading '...wife prolongeth...'

"A virtuous Wife prolongeth life" via British Museum

A blackened looking ring, photographed so the inside is visible, with a partial inscription reading 'A Kiss'

This ring is a little different - an English silver poesy ring (c17th-18th C) which simply reads "A kiss for this" via British Museum

A  gold ring sits on a neutral background, the item is photographed at an angle from above showing a section of the inscription with simple but pretty engraving which says ' My - hart '

Due to the age of most of these rings, the inscriptions tend to have non standard or old english spellings, like this one which reads "You have My hart" via British Museum

The inside of a very tarnished, blackened ring showing the inscription MARIE engraved.

This ring, while not the most exciting to look at, and is a very tarnished brass, but was probably a betrothal or engagement ring, as the inscription on this one says "MARIE MEE" via British Museum

Gold ring with an engraved inscription visible on the inside in a rounded script which reads 'mine to you' from the angle we can see it from.

"No heart so true as mine to you" via British Museum

List of Poesy inscriptions (WIP)

As God decreed so wee agreed

A token of love

Fortunate If Favoured

ALLE MY TRVST

Two but one hart till death vs depart

All I refues and thee i chus [All I refuse and you I choose]

Keepe Faith till Death

Thine most sure till death

I chuse thee till life refuse me

My loue to thee shall endles be

two harts soe tide let none devide

This and the giver is thine for ever

Be true in heart till death depart

my heart and I untill I die

(Two hearts) unighted lives Contented

NOT THE GIFT BVT THE GIVER

Love til death

If grace unite love will be right

My heart and eye until I die (where the heart and eye are pictures)

Let likinge Laste

trew love

Not the value but my love

You never knew a heart so true

I will keep adding to my list of poesy inscriptions but there are many, many examples each with their own inscription - if you'd like to commission a custom poesy ring from me, if you like one of the quotes above, like your own or simply want initials in your wedding bands then let me know!