Metal Detectorist Finds Rare 1,500-Year-Old Gold Ring in Denmark

The distinctly decorated artifact may be linked to a powerful family in the area with ties to the Merovingians

1,500-year-old gold ring
The 1,500-year-old gold ring's semiprecious red stone likely served as a symbol of power. The National Museum of Denmark

A metal detectorist has discovered a 1,500-year-old gold ring in Emmerlev, a town in southern Denmark. Experts say the rare artifact may be linked to a royal family in the region.

According to a statement from the National Museum of Denmark, the intricately decorated ring is made from 22-carat gold and features spiral designs on the underside and tiny trefoil knobs. Gracing its center is a semiprecious red gemstone.

“I was so excited and overwhelmed that I could hardly say anything,” Lars Nielsen, the metal detectorist, says in the translated statement. “To make such a unique and one-of-a-kind find is completely surreal. I am very proud and honored to be able to contribute a piece to our shared history both locally and nationally.”

After finding the small treasure, Nielsen brought it to experts at the National Museum, who have concluded that it likely dates to the fifth or sixth century C.E.

Lars Nielsen
Lars Nielsen, the amateur metal detectorist who discovered the ring The National Museum of Denmark

The gold ring has features that are consistent with Frankish craftsmanship. Researchers say these details suggest the item’s owners were connected to the Merovingians, a Frankish dynasty that ruled over a significant portion of Western Europe between the fifth and eighth centuries, per Live Science’s Jennifer Nalewicki.

“It is an impressive level of craftsmanship that is difficult to imitate today,” says Kirstine Pommergaard, an archaeologist and curator at the National Museum, in the statement. “The gold ring is probably a woman’s ring and may have belonged to a prince’s daughter who was married to a prince in Emmerlev.”

The researchers say gold was often given as a diplomatic gesture between families, who may have used marriage to form strategic alliances. The stone also offers clues, as examples of similar stones are known to have been status symbols for the region’s elite.

The ring may have belonged to a “new, unknown princely family in the area with close connections to the Merovingians,” per the statement. The site has previously revealed other valuable artifacts—such as pottery, a collection of gold and silver coins and golden horns dating to the first century—that suggest the area was an important center of power.

Back of the ring
The underside of the ring features a Frankish spiral design. The National Museum of Denmark

“The person who had the ring probably also knew about the people who had the golden horns,” says Anders Hartvig, an archaeologist at the Museum Sønderjylland, in the statement. “Maybe they were related. Together with other recent finds, it paints a picture that Southern Jutland has had a greater influence than previously thought.”

Nielsen was so excited about the find that he created a replica for his wife. He gave it to her on Christmas.

“Hopefully, it will be passed down in the family, who will in future be able to identify where it was found and present the letter from the National Museum, which describes the ring’s special history and significance,” he says.

The metal detectorist found the ring in 2020, reports Arkeonews’ Oguz Kayra. Until the recent announcement, experts kept the discovery a secret as they unraveled the mysterious artifact’s secrets.

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