The National Museum of Ireland have announced that an 800-year-old medieval period gold ring brooch is to be sent on a short-term loan to Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh, close to where it was found.
The ring brooch was found by Mr Ian Andrew while walking on the beach at Cloosmore, Dingle.
Ring brooches were worn in medieval times by both men and women in order to fasten their gowns or cloaks at the neck. They may have been offered as a sign of affection or as betrothal gifts.
Approximately 150 ring brooches are known from Ireland, but would usually be of copper alloy. Only a very small number including this example are made of gold.
The finder was on a holiday visit to the Dingle peninsula, where he has strong family connections.
While walking along a rocky coastal foreshore, he noticed a bright light shining between some rocks. After taking a closer look, he identified and retrieved this tiny but exquisite gold ring brooch. He subsequently reported it and was extremely helpful to the National Museum of Ireland in providing every available detail in relation to the find circumstances.
The brooch is an example of a rare type of 13th/14th century ring brooch with projecting hands. The brooch has a blue stone setting now identified as tourmaline, which is quite similar to sapphire. There is an inscription in Gothic style lettering on the front of the brooch. While most of the letters are legible, their meaning is unclear and they may represent a type of code.
The brooch may have had a magical or talismanic association for the wearer.
The National Museum of Ireland has had a long-standing relationship with Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh and many archaeological objects found on the Dingle peninsula have been on loan there since the 1980’s.
The ring brooch will be on display in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh on Friday and Saturday, October 5 and 6.
The loan has been made possible by the granting of a Mobility of Collections Scheme grant to Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This scheme facilitates loans from the National Collections to regional museums in order to make these collections more accessible for all.
On its return to the National Museum of Ireland, the ring brooch will be displayed in an exhibition entitled “Dressed to Impress” at the National Museum of Archaeology in Kildare Street, Dublin.
The exhibition will include three other medieval period brooches found by chance in different parts of the country, all of which were reported and acquired for the national collections in 2016.