Simple and sentimental, posy rings are a gold band with a short inscription inside the band. They were an important part of Georgian-era jewelry, even if they were less fashionable by the time Mr. Darcy met Elizabeth Bennet. They derive their name from the French word poésy—a short rhyme or poem—because these rings were engraved with a rhyming message, first on the outside, and then over time moving to the inside of the band and losing the necessary rhyme.
They were popular during the 15th through 18th centuries in England and France. They even warrant a mention in Shakespeare (Hamlet, 3.2. 138-143), although not in romantic terms.
For us and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently. [Exit.]
Is this a prologue or the posy of a ring?
Tis brief, my lord.
As woman's love.
In general, posy rings were precious tokens. The jewelry of any era is indicative of the values held by the people of that time and the Georgian period was full of unabashed sentiment—think Marianne Dashwood’s sensibility. Romance, individuality, and freedom were valued sentiments. Love was valued even at a time when pre-arranged marriages or marriages based on connections and wealth were still prevalent. Posy rings, therefore, were a way to demonstrate regard for a spouse—or a lover on the side.
By the Georgian era (1714-1830/37), the inscriptions on the gold bands were used to communicate sentiments of friendship, loyalty, and, of course, love. They were lover’s tokens, marriage rings, and betrothal gifts.
Some inscriptions include phrases such as:
'We Joine our hearts in God' 'love the giver'
'Live in love' 'happy pair that faithful are'
'God above incease our love' 'In thee my choyce I do recoyce'
'Bound by faith yours til death' 'The love is true IOU'
'MY LOVE IS TRUE' 'love for ever'
In Two More Days at Netherfield, this finer feeling of love and devotion is demonstrated when Darcy comes into possession of an heirloom posy ring, and there is only one person he can imagine giving it to.
Darcy took the ring and tilted it, so the engraving inside was visible. Vous et aucun autre.
“You and no other,” Elizabeth whispered, with tears shining in her eyes.
Darcy placed the ring on the centre finger of her right hand. “You do not need another symbol of my fidelity and love. Nonetheless, I hope you know that my loving you has made me a better man.”
Here are two examples of posy rings from the British Museum. They have a collection of over 600 posy rings produced from the post-medieval period through the 1840s.
These two were made by Joseph Collier sometime between 1720-1755. One band is engraved with a flower and leave motif and the other is wider and smooth. The interesting thing is that these two rings in the collection have the same inscription: I love and like my choice.💕