A SAPPHIRE ring unearthed near York could be hundreds of years older than first thought and may even have been owned by a European king.

Experts discussing the Escrick Ring at a workshop in York think it was probably from the 5th or 6th century – not the 10th or 11th as originally believed.

They also suggested the ring was made in Europe, possibly France, and that it would have belonged to a king, leader or consort – not a Bishop which was a previous theory.

Natalie McCaul, curator of archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, which owns the ring, said: “What this workshop has shown is that this sapphire ring is even more special than we had previously thought. Nothing like it has been found in this country from the 5th or 6th century.

“It has been fantastic to hear the thoughts of some of the world’s leading experts and their suggestions will allow us to now go away and try and fit the ring into a historical timeframe. Hopefully this will lead us to finding out more about the ring and possibly even who might have owned it.”

The gold ring was found by metal detectorist Michael Greenhorn, from York and District Metal Detecting Club, in 2009.

The Yorkshire Museum has raised £35,000 to buy the ring, with grants of £10,000 from the Art Fund, £10,000 from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, £10,000 from the Headley Trust and £1,000 from the York Philosophical Society.