A RENAISSANCE ring that has been identified as one of the Marlborough Gems has sold at a Salisbury auction for £77,500, after coming on the market for the first time in more than a century.

Initially thought to be a 19th century copy when consigned by the private Hampshire vendor, further research by Marielle Whiting of Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury revealed the ring’s true history.

“There was something about the quality of the ring that made me push a bit further with it,” said Whiting, “and when I spotted it in the archive of the Marlborough Gems my heart nearly stopped beating!”

The sale on July 18 was the first time the item had been on the open market in 120 years.

Initial bidding in the room contested a commission bid, before a bank of 19 telephones took over and chased the price up, with the ring being secured on the telephone by an anonymous buyer.

Marielle said: “It’s amazing to be able to trace the provenance of an object right back to the 17th century, when it was in the Arundel Collection.

"The fate of so many of the Marlborough Gems is currently unknown, so to be able to identify another and preserve its history is really important.”

The Marlborough Gems were a collection of some 800 jewels belonging to George Spencer, 4th Earl of Marlborough.

The collection was sold at auction in 1875 by John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough in order to pay for repairs on the ancestral home of Blenheim Palace.

The collection was bought in its entirety by David Bromilow of Bitteswell Hall in Leicestershire, and was sold by his daughter with the rest of his own hardstone collection at auction in London in 1899.

Currently, only about a quarter of the gems have been accounted for.