WAS this precious golden love token lost by a forlorn Leeds lass when Shakespeare was still alive and kicking?
Or perhaps the ‘bleeding heart’ slipped out of a lovesick English Civil War soldier’s pocket and dropped in the mud, where it lay undisturbed for generations.
More than 300 years later, the perfectly preserved 17th century romantic keepsake set a rookie treasure hunter’s heart fluttering after his metal detector beeped as he swept pastureland in Allerton Bywater.
He dug down eight inches to unearth the small, oval shaped golden seal which is embossed with an image of an arrow piercing a heart. Four drops of blood drip out below.
Inside is inscribed the message: “Thy Virtue Merits More.”
The seal, which weighs just two grammes and is just over 14mm long, would have been dipped in hot wax and used to seal letters.
The lucky finder, who doesn’t want to be identified, had permission to treasure hunt in the landowner’s field after just three months enjoying his new hobby.
And he played by the rules to declare his find last February, prompting a treasure trove inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court.
Coroner David Hinchliff recorded the find as treasure trove and said the seal would now go before a committee at the British Museum in London for valuation.
Any reward will be split between the landowner and the finder.
Mr Hinchliff said Leeds Museum chiefs have expressed an interest in buying the seal
Jamina Pariol, assistant treasure registrar at the British Museum in London, said after the treasure trove hearing: “What’s unusual about it is the type of seal it is. We don’t often get them intact.
“The ‘bleeding heart’ is quite a popular kind of design for the time, what is unusual is it’s got “Thy Virtue Merits More” inscribed.
“You often get this on rings, or gifts to someone else, and often with very nice inscriptions of love. It’s unusual.”
She added: “It’s quite likely it would have been tied through something to keep it on your person or around the neck.
“It’s exciting because Leeds Museum wants to buy it and you don’t often get this type of writing.”