Irish Coin Daily: Gold Ring Money – Penannular ring, twisted, ending in globules

The Irish Coin Cabinet, The Old Currency Exchange, Coin Dealer, Dublin, Ireland

Date: c. 1100 BC – 800/700 BC

Gold Ring Money - Penannular ring, twisted, ending in globules, late Bronze Age. (29 mm, 16.27 g)

Gold Ring Money – Penannular ring, twisted, ending in globules. Late Bronze Age.


Penannular ring, twisted, ending in globules. This is a particularly heavy example, made from a carefully twisted shaft of gold ending in two globules.

  • Weight: 16.27 g
  • Diameter: 29 mm

Late Bronze Age (or early Iron Age) gold objects such as this one have been found in various forms and shapes, but most notably in the form of rings. They probably both served as personal adornments and as a form of ‘proto-money’ used in trade and are often attributed to the British Isles, although such rings are in fact attested across all of Celtic Europe.

  • Ex-Keltika Collection, Switzerland

Dating Gold Ring Money:

There is still much debate as to whether or not Gold Ring Money was actually used as money or not. Much of what we have in museums was found as individual, undocumented finds, or was looted by Victorian gentlemen collectors, so dating it isn’t easy either.

Early Bronze Age (c. 2500 BC – 1500 BC)

The earliest phase of gold working in Britain and Ireland is characterised by sheet-working techniques together with the use of incised geometric patterns or, alternatively, of linear pointillé and embossed decoration. The ornaments produced with this metalworking technique are mainly Lunulae and discs, but other objects, such as armlets, basket -shaped ornaments, plaques, pendant, and beads were also created.

  • No Gold Ring Money has been attributed to this phase.

Middle Bronze Age (c. 1500 BC – 1100 BC)

The middle phase of gold working in Britain and Ireland is characterized by sheet-working and bar-working techniques. The ornaments produced with the sheet-working technique were decorated with repoussé or incised decoration, while the ornaments obtained by bar-working techniques were decorated by twisting the body. The results of those gold working techniques are mainly neck ornaments such as torcs, bracelets and a diverse range of rings was represented.

  • This is the earliest phase that Gold Ring Money might have been produced
  • At such an early date they can hardly have functioned as a form of money.
    • Rings of this age are now thought to have been used only as personal ornaments
    • Rings of this age may, however, also have been used as a means of storing wealth (one of the traditional uses of money).

Late Bronze Age (c. 1100 BC – 800/700 BC)

The final phase of Britain and Ireland gold working, in comparison with the previous periods, includes a far wider range of objects types, manufactures, and decorations. The Late phase of Bronze Age goldwork is still characterized by bar – working and sheet – working techniques but new techniques, such as gold plating, inlaid, and the creation of objects with a hollowed body, are recorded.

During this period take place, also, the manufacturing of composite constructions that implies the use of a combination of different gold-working skills. The ornaments produced with those techniques were decorated with repoussé technique, incised and punched decoration; the main patterns were grooves, rows of dots, concentric circles, conical projections, concentric and filled triangles, chevrons, diamond patterns and cross-hatch patterns. The results of those gold working techniques are mainly neck-rings (torcs, gorgets, and collars), pendants, a diverse range of bracelets, sleeve and dress fastener, penannular rings and lock-rings.

  • It is possible that some examples of what we term Gold Ring Money may be of this age


Further Reading:

Other Examples of so-called Ring Money:

Middle Bronze Age: 1500 – 1100 BC

  • (Jewellery, not money, but possibly a store of wealth)
    • Type 1 – Wire coils
      • Irish Coin Daily: Gold Ring (Solid band of gold, thick, oval-sectioned wire that has been coiled three times to produce a spiral ring with simple, unelaborated terminals)
    • Type 2 – Double-wire rings
      • Irish Coin Daily: Gold Ring – Penannular (Double-wire ring with looped terminals)

Late Bronze Age: 1100 – 800 / 700 BC


Iron Age: 800 BC to the Roman invasion of 58 BC (in Gaul)

Iron Age: 800 BC to the Roman invasion of 43 BC (in Britain)

    • Celtic Ring Money
      • Blog Post: Iron Currency Bars from Celtic Britain
        • Type 1 – sword-shaped (most common type)
          • Sword-shaped bars had a flat, narrow blade 780-890 mm long and weighed between 400-500 g
          • They show two common attributes of money: they conform to a weight standard and have a standard, easily recognized appearance
          • This variety of bar was used in what would later become the territories of the Corieltauvi, Dobunni, Durotriges and Atrebates
        • Type 2 – spit-shaped
          • Rare, found in the area later associated with the Dobunni
        • Type 3 – bay-leaf shaped
          • Rare, known from only a few Cambridgeshire sites
        • Type 4 – ploughshares
          • Rare, found along the Thames Valley & West Midlands

Iron Age: 500 BC – 400 AD (in Ireland)

    • No Ring Money excavated from a dated Irish Iron Age site (yet?)
    • No Celtic coins excavated from a dated Iron Age site (yet?)





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