A 350-year-old gold ring discovered in the south of the island has just been declared a treasure in an investigation earlier this week.
He was discovered in a field by metal detector Lee Morgan, of Peel and owner of Morgan’s Pies bakery.
Curator of Archeology at Manx National Heritage [MNH] Allison Fox said it’s rare to find high-quality English Civil War-era artifacts on the island, and something like this has never been found here before.
Some of the rare artifacts in the Manx Museum from this period include a bonnet believed to belong to Illiam Dhone and coins that were found by a detective in a hand-woven purse.
The ring, dated to the mid to late 1600s, measures 21.5mm in diameter, in gold, with a 12mm diameter crystal stone, overlying the gold lettering of the initial capital letters J (or I) and D.
Each shoulder of the ring is adorned with an engraving of a leaf inlaid with black enamel.
MNH believes the initials might refer to James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby Lord of Man, as he later adopted the signature “J Derby”.
Ms Fox said the ring would likely have been made in memory of him, not for him.
This is because it is in the style of a Stuart period ‘mourning ring’, sometimes given out at funerals to commemorate the deceased, usually including their initials.
Ms Fox continued: ‘The ring is small and quite delicate in shape, but of high quality and intact.
âThe quality suggests that it was made for or on behalf of a person of high rank.
“ It is unlikely that we can establish for sure who owned the ring or to whom it commemorated, but it is possible that it was associated with the Stanley family, formerly Lords of Man. ”
Ms Fox added that it was unusual for such rings found here to be intact with the stone attached, and the fact that the crystal remained embedded in this ring shows how well made it is.
She said the ring is “the first of its kind” to be found “on the island, and that” even without any association with the Stanley, it is a truly special find. ”
The ring was easily dated as the style is very specific to the late mid-1600s, with similar examples having been found in the UK.
The style is also indicative of political allegiance, being generally associated with the royalist cause of the English Civil War, which James Stanley supported – it was executed by parliamentarians in 1651.
MNH also consulted with Derby family experts in the UK, who were ‘very happy’ to agree that there might be a possible association with the ring.
Ms Fox also said she hoped publicity for the discovery could attract attention that could link the ring to the Stanley family with more certainty, if more information came to light.
It is not known if it would be worn by a man or a woman, but could fit a man’s pinky finger.
When Investigative Coroner Jayne Hughes determined the ring to be treasure, the two main criteria were its age (with an object having to be at least 300 years or older to be considered treasure) and for the ring to be made of at least 10% precious metal.
Ms Fox said MNH also highlighted the potential connection to James Stanley, who she said was taken into consideration by the investigation, but that age and precious metal content would have been enough on their own to make the decision.
There are now plans to send the ring to the UK for review by the Treasure Valuation Board, an independent group that meets at the British Museum and provides advice on antiques.
When discoveries of archaeological objects are made on the island, there is a legal obligation to declare them to the national heritage of Manx.
If the artifacts fall into the categories of the Treasure Act 2017 (which includes being so closely linked to Manx’s history and national life that their loss would be a calamity and / or be of exceptional importance to the study of any branch of manx (learning or historical) art, the discovery must also be reported to the inquest coroner.
If the find is declared a treasure, a financial reward is usually paid to the researcher and landowner by the government.
The appraisal off the island will allow them to receive the equivalent market value of the treasure.
The exact location of the find in the south of the island will remain a closely guarded secret to protect the integrity of the site, but MNH has been able to confirm that no artifacts from this period have ever been found in this area.
The memorial ring is the third discovery of Mr. Morgan’s treasure on the island.
In 2013, he discovered a treasure trove of silver coins dating from around 1320 AD, and in 2019, he discovered a silver bar dating from between 950 and 1075 AD.
Mr Morgan began metal detecting in 2008, having been introduced to the hobby by his father when he was young.
He told us that on his first trip to St John’s he found a sixpence Elizabeth I coin which he said “ brought me back [to the hobby]”.
Mr Morgan had researched the ring himself and came to the same conclusion about its age as MNH.
He added that his interest in history was “ born out of metal detecting, once you find these artifacts I think in some ways it’s your job to work on. [roughly] what are they.’
âIf you don’t know what you find you have to either come here or do the research yourself, and I find that very interesting.
“And if I know I’ve found something interesting, I know it should be reported.”
He said some of his favorite finds were not treasures and included a Bronze Age ax and a 15th century silver ring which he described as less spectacular than this treasure ring, but also in fantastic condition.
He donated the ax, but kept the ring.
Mr. Morgan could also tell us that he had found a Viking ingot nearby in the same field as the ring.
Asked about his reaction to his discovery, he said: ‘We spend 99.9% of the time digging scrap metal, you’re pretty much a scrap dealer.
âBut while 1%, sometimes you will find something, but this ring was an exception.
The find was unexpected, having first picked up a signal from a piece of lead, before taking two steps and picking up the signal from the ring before digging it into a small hole. MNH is looking to display the ring for the Manx Museum’s reopening this Saturday.