IT BEARS a message that has stood the test of time and after nearly 500 years in the ground it is now destined for display in a museum.
The small post-medieval posy ring was unearthed by asbestos surveyor Ian Gray when he was in the process of smartening up his back garden in Langford Road, Fratton.
The 36-year-old said: ‘I was digging up a tree stump and was halfheartedly scratching about when I first found it. I thought it was a bit of junk.’
Mistakenly thinking it was just a piece of costume jewellery, he put it to one side in his kitchen and forgot about it.
But 18 months later, in November last year, it was glistening in the sun and it caught his eye.
On closer inspection he discovered that it bore the inscription ‘Be True To Thy Friend’.
Mr Gray said: ‘I looked it up online and found out what it was and what you should do and handed it straight in.’
Historical objects that are found in the ground must be reported to the government under The Treasure Act 1996 – if deemed treasure at inquest then the British Museum is given the opportunity to buy the find, at a value determined by a committee made up of a panel of experts.
The ring was deemed treasure and is now in the safe hands of the county’s finds liaison officer Katie Hinds in Winchester.
She said the ring was in an exceptionally good state, unmarked and not squashed, and that it even has a few remaining flecks of a green enamel that would have once covered the outside.
Mrs Hinds said: ‘It’s unusual.
‘ A lot of the finds I see are found by metal detectors in the countryside in a ploughed field, but this was found by someone out digging in their back garden. It’s exciting. It’s a lovely example.’
Ian Richardson, treasure registrar at the British Museum, said posy rings were popular in the 17th Century and that it would most likely have been a love token or a memorial ring made from money set aside in someone’s will.
Mr Richardson said he could not put a value on the ring, although examples range from a few hundred pounds to several thousand.
Portsmouth Museum is now hoping to acquire the ring, and it will pay Mr Gray the market value.
Mr Gray, who now lives in Frome, Somerset, said: ‘It’s amazing to have held it in my hand. It is a lovely thing and a piece of history.’