A KITCHEN assistant who dug up a rare piece of gold treasure nearly threw it away.

The gold earring unearthed in an Oxfordshire field is one of the earliest pieces of metalwork in Britain – from the Early Bronze Age, 2,200BC.

Steven Bain, from Ewelme, near Wallingford, stumbled across the treasure while metal detecting in a farmer’s field in Cholsey last October.

The 27-year-old said: “If anything I nearly threw it away. I didn’t realise what it was, it just went straight into my pocket.

“It wasn’t until later that evening when I rubbed the mud off it I thought, that’s gold.

“The field is massive – so big I don’t think I’d know where I found it – but we hadn’t been there very long when the detector started to make this signal noise.”

Mr Bain added that it was only because he keeps everything he finds while metal detecting as a hobby that he kept the treasure.

He said if he didn’t he would be digging up the same thing over and over again.

It was months before he took it to the Ashmolean Museum’s finds surgery where it was immediately spotted by the curator of European pre-history, Alison Roberts.

Mrs Roberts said: “I remember looking down the table, seeing it, and my jaw literally dropping on the desk. It is extremely rare.

“It is one of those amazing accidents. The chances have got to be one in several million.

“They are some of the oldest pieces of gold work in Britain. It would have belonged to someone of a very high status.

“You would have had to be pretty special to have any sort of metal.

“We have a pair of them which are on display in the Ashmolean actually found in Radley, near Abingdon. They are often found with male burials so there was almost certainly a burial around there.

“It shows how important Oxfordshire was.

“This is probably the rarest and one of the most interesting things we have seen at the surgery.”

Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter ruled on Wednesday that the find was treasure, meaning it has to be offered for sale to the Oxfordshire Museums Service for display at the County Museum in Woodstock.

It is currently at the British Museum waiting to be valued.

The money would be split 50-50 between the farmer who owns the land and the finder – Mr Bain.

Finds liaison officer for Oxfordshire County Council and the British Museum, Anni Byard, said: “He came along with this item and people nearly fell off their chairs.

“There are only a handful – six or seven – in the whole of England.

“This was a period where metal was just starting to be used. They were still using stone tools.”

Some archaeologists think the jewellery, which would have been worn curled round the ear, could have been used as hair decorations.