24. Five Gold Rings

‘Five gold rings’ is the prolonged verse we all look forward to singing from the Twelve Days of Christmas before the quick descent back down to ‘a partridge in a pear tree’. Pictured here is a 15th-century, medieval, gold finger ring. It has a black-letter inscription reading: ‘Love conquers all except the heart of a villain. Love sends solace and joy’.

Gold is a prominent gift in the traditional Christian Christmas story where the Three Wise Men visit baby Jesus with gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

Gold is a precious native metal, so it is found in its natural state often with silver and minerals of lower economic value such as quartz and pyrite. Pyrite can be mistaken for gold from their similarities in colour – this is why it is also known as ‘Fool’s gold’. Pyrite is a mineral that is much easier to find (especially locally in the Peak District) in sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks; it is also responsible for the formation of pyritised fossils. So, unfortunately you’re more likely to find pyrite than gold on your festive walks over the next few days.