A Look at Armory v. Delamirie (1722) - PropertyBlawg

A Look at Armory v. Delamirie (1722)

by JRO on July 18, 2013

In the year 1722 a young chimney sweep found a ring containing several jewels while on a job at a private residence. He immediately took the ring to the most well regarded gold smith in London and requested an appraisal of its monetary value. The apprentice agreed and took the ring in the back of the shop to be weighed and removed the jewels from the setting. After returning with the empty setting the apprentice announced the value at three half-pence and offered to pay that amount to the chimney sweep. The boy declined the offer and demanded that the jewels be returned, to which the apprentice refused. The boy then brought legal action against the shop owner Delmierie, as the responsible party for the actions of the apprentice.

After several trials in lower courts the case finally made it to the equivalent of the US Supreme Court known as the Court of the King’s Bench.

The trial:

The primary question that was laid before the court concerned whether the plaintiff (Armony), or defendant (Delmierie) had any rights of possession and if so, who had the greatest right. A potential argument by Delmierie that either he or his apprentice intended to return the ring was discredited by the fact that the jewels had been removed from the setting. After deliberation the court determined that both parties had a right to possession. Armony as the finder of the ring had a greater right of possession, above all others besides the rightful owner.


Delmierie was compelled to either produce the jewels or provide Armony with compensation equal to the highest assessed value of jewels in a comparable form. The jewels were not produced and compensation was awarded to Armony.


This case is important in legal history because it was one of the first to clearly define the right of possession endowed on the finder of a piece of personal property. It also established that the rights inherent to the finder superseded those of all other individuals besides the owner.

Related cases in the US:

Benjamin v Linder Aviation, Inc:  A 1995 decision that added the idea that rights of the finder can vary based on the characterization of found property. This was also an interesting finding because it elevated interpretation of common law above that of legislation enacted in the state that applied to lost property. Essentially the location and condition of the found property were factors for consideration in determining whether or not property could be classified as lost or not.

McAvoy v Medina: An 1866 decision which concerned the voluntary passage of possession rights from a finder to a third party. In this case the finder of a pocketbook in a shop gave it to the owner for safekeeping in case the rightful owner appeared to claim the item. After a period of time and no such claim had been made the finder asserted that the pocketbook was now his and the issue was taken to court. The ruling established that the finder had no rights of possession as the pocketbook was not actually lost but simply a mislaid or misplaced good. Furthermore the shop owner had acquired possession rights to hold the pocketbook until the rightful owner appeared.

About the author

This piece was composed by Drake Letterman, a freelance legal writer who concentrates his writing career on Securities Litigation, Property Law, Patent Law, Civil Procedure, Contracts and other related areas.

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