METAL detector enthusiast Terry Vickers’ first big find has turned out to be a gold Roman ring.

The 52-year-old retired engineer, from Chilton, near Ferryhill, County Durham, found the object while surveying fields near Wheatley Hill.

Mr Vickers, who has been pursuing his hobby for 37 years, was in court today to hear Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle declare that his November 2010 find is treasure.

The ring is with the British Museum and could be sold. Mr Vickers and farmer Anthony Wilson will share the proceeds.

Mr Vickers found the ring about five inches below the surface.

He went to the field, with Mr Wilson’s permission, because it is near the site of an old village.

Mr Tweddle told the hearing that an expert at the British Museum has confirmed that the ring was substantially made of gold and could date back as far as the Third Century.

Afterwards Mr Vickers said: "At first I didn’t realise it was a ring.

"I thought it was a ring pull off an empty lager can - it looked the same colour as a Stella can.

"When I cleared the dirt off it I realised it was a ring.

"And I thought it might be Roman because the gold was a buttery colour."

Mr Vickers added he had never found anything of interest befeore and said he hoped his find ended up in a local museum.

Coroner Mr Tweddle, who usually inquires into people’s deaths, said: "It makes rather a pleasant change to deal with a matter like this.

"Most people who come to my court are not particularly happy about why they are here. A treasure inquest is a bit of light relief."