A beautiful yet simple gold and turquoise ring, one of only three pieces of jewellery in existence that is known to have belonged to Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), has had a temporary export bar placed on it to provide a last chance to raise the £152,450 needed to keep it in the UK. It was purchased by the Pop singer and TV presenter Kelly Clarkson, who shot to fame as the winner of the “American Idol” TV talent contest in 2002. Clarkson bought the gold and turquoise ring for more than £150,000 ($227,000, 172,000 euros) at an auction last year.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the ring following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England, on the grounds that it is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune.
The ring is in excellent condition, and is accompanied by papers documenting the history of the ring within Jane Austen’s family. The ring passed first to her sister Cassandra, who, as soon as she heard of her engagement, gave it to her sister-in-law Eleanor Austen, second wife of the Revd. Henry Thomas Austen (brother of Jane and Cassandra). It has remained in the family ever since.
Jane Austen placed great significance on jewellery’s link to personal relationships both in her life and in her novels. Often reflecting the characters of wearers in her novels, jewels were frequently much more than symbols of vanity and excess. It is precisely because Jane Austen understood the social and emotional nuances which could be associated with a piece of jewellery, and because jewellery has such potency as an intimate possession, that the ring aroused huge interest when it was auctioned last year.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “Jane Austen’s modest lifestyle and her early death mean that objects associated with her of any kind are extremely rare, so I hope that a UK buyer comes forward so this simple but elegant ring can be saved for the nation.”
Philippa Glanville from the RCEWA said: “Jane Austen treasured her simple jewellery. This pretty ring, a rare survival, evokes her personality and expresses the strong feelings attached to rings at the time.”
The decision on the export licence application for the ring will be deferred for a period ending on 30 September 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 30 December 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the ring is made at the recommended price of £152,450 (plus £30,490 VAT which can be reclaimed by most institutions).
Jane Austen’s gold and turquoise set ring, est. £20,000-30,000, sold for £152,450. Photo: Sotheby’s