ONE of the oldest and rarest pieces of gold to be found in the country has turned up as part of a job lot sold at a car boot sale.

The ‘exceptionally rare’ gold strip is thought to be from the earliest Bronze Age around 2500 to 2000bc.

Despite being thousands of years old, it has turned up relatively well-preserved in a box of bits from Berinsfield Car Boot sale.

Finds liaison officer for Oxfordshire and West Berkshire with Oxfordshire County Council Anni Byard said: “There are only a handful of items similar to this, they are incredibly rare and as such we are not really sure what they were used for.

“This is why it is quite an important discovery because they are so very rare.

“The date is when you start to get the very first bits of gold in Britain.”

The piece of gold, a folded strip now in two pieces, was bought by John Workman at the car boot sale in Berinsfield, south Oxfordshire.

A treasure inquest at Oxford Coroners Court, on Tuesday, heard the gold was bought with as part of a box of gold watch parts in March 2016.

Mr Workman spotted the unusual piece and showed it to friends who had interest in metal detecting and was encouraged to get in touch with the British Museum.

Ms Byard described the piece as ‘exceptionally rare’ and said ‘very rare doesn’t seem to do it justice’.

She added: “As soon as I heard about it I knew it was Bronze Age and realised it was pretty unusual and quite rare.

“Because they are so rare we don’t know what they would have been used for, it could have been on the side of a sword or could have been worn around the neck as jewellery. We just don’t know.”

The piece is the second bit of historical treasure to turn up at Berinsfield Car Boot Sale after a gold foil, similar in design to a coin, with a hanging pendant loop called a bracteate was found in 2011.

The Anglo-Saxon object dates back to 600 – 700AD.

Ms Byard said: “The whole county is so historically and archaeologically rich. It is a shame we don’t know exactly where [the gold strip] it was found.

“We don’t know when this was found, it could have been found two years ago or 50 years ago and someone may just have not reported it.”

The inquest heard it was likely the object was found locally and the ruling of treasure means items effectively belong to the public and are likely to be put on display in a museum.

It current market value will now be calculated and as The Oxfordshire Museum has expressed an interest in the piece the money is likely to go to the finder.

Ms Byard was unable to put a price on the item, but a similar strip of gold found near Winchester in 2000 was valued at £2,000.

Coroner Darren Salter added: “It qualifies as treasure being of prehistoric date and containing more than substantial of precious metal. It is an interesting and very rare find.”

At the same hearing two more items of treasure were recorded by Mr Salter including a complete cast silver strap end dating back to the late Anglo-Saxon period and likely to have been used on a belt.

It was found in Littleworth in south Oxfordshire in September 2016 and is decorated with interlacing animals.

There was also a 15th century gold posy finger ring found in south Oxfordshire in October.

The ring, now slightly misshapen, also contained the inscription ‘this is my wish’ in French spaced equally around the band.

Both were found with a metal detector.