Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Would You Wear Jane Austen's Ring?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Isabella/Susan reporting:

Everything connected with Jane Austen has a certain magic. Readers today are so eager for a connection with this favorite 19th c author that early editions of her books (see here and here) bring astronomical sums at auction, and even improbable "portraits" become news.

There's no dispute over the latest piece of Jane Austen memorabilia to come to market, however. The ring, left, has never left Jane's family, being passed down from Jane to her sister Cassandra, and then through various Austen descendants to the present day. The ring has been so privately cherished that, as the auction catalogue notes, it has been "hitherto unknown to scholars." It's unlikely to remain unknown any longer. Set to be auctioned by Sotheby's on July 10, the pre-sale estimated price is £20,000-£30,000, and no one will be surprised if the final sale is for much more. UPDATE: The ring did in fact sell for more than the estimate - much, much more. The final hammer price was £152,450, or about $236,000. The buyer? You'd never predict who it was - click here for her identity.

The ring is simple and elegant. The stone is believed to be odontalite, a popular 19th c substitute for turquoise, and the setting is gold. Jane's taste in jewelry was understated, and in letters to her sister Cassandra, she notes a preference for pieces "neat and plain."Still in an early 19th c jeweler's box that may be the original ("T.West, Goldsmith, Ludgate Street, near St Paul's"), the ring is also accompanied by a descriptive note by Eleanor Austen, the third owner, and wife to Jane's brother Rev. Henry Thomas Austen. Provenance is everything in memorabilia, and this is as perfect as any collector could wish.

Many of my fellow-writers wear rings, often ones with a sentimental connection or historical story. Rings are jewelry that can be enjoyed by the wearer. There's an intimacy to them, wrapped tightly around the finger, that earrings or pins can never have. Looking at Jane's ring, I can imagine the gold band on her finger as she writes, her pen moving swiftly over the page. Or perhaps she's paused to search for the perfect word or phrase, her thumb absently rubbing over and over that smooth blue stone....

Above: A gold and gem set ring, once belonging to Jane Austen. Photo from Sotheby's.

20 comments:

Ana said...

Beautiful ring! I hadn't heard about this before. Thanks for the interesting article. Now if only I had an extra $50,000 laying around. :)

A traveller in time said...

Fascinating but sad that it is leaving her family.

Rebecca said...

All I can say is 'I love it!'.
Also you would need more than $50,ooo because pounds is about a 1 to 2 ratio to dollars. For every pound sterling of Englis money, you would need two dollars of American money. That will make the ring go for 60 thousand to 80 thousand dollars in US dollars roughly, or more...Yikes. But still well worth it.

Susan Bailey said...

Wow, imagine the psychic connection while wearing that ring! It would make such a great inspiration especially while writing.

Anonymous said...

The ring is a clue to the estimable Miss Austen's taste in jewelry, but it can also give us a clue to the size of her hands... add another layer of detail to the imaginary picture.

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful ring and knowing that it was kept in her family all these years is priceless.

I read another description that referred to the ring size a K 1/2. I didn't have a clue what that meant. After some digging, K 1/2 translates into size 5 1/2 in America. Knowing that small detail really brings Ms. Austen into sharper focus for me. More so than portraits, IMO.

Thanks for this post.

Kathy

Ana said...

The presumed odontalite looks better than the turquoise it should be substituting for.
It looks really lovely.

Rebecca said...

I was interested to find out a little more about the stone in the ring as I have never heard of it. This is what I found on Google.

Definition of Odontalite:

A fossil tooth colored a bright blue by phosphate of iron. It is used as an imitation of turquoise, and hence called bone turquoise.
(freefactfinder.com/definition/Odontalite.html)

Giselle La Pompe-Moore said...

Although I have the benefit of it being in my currency, £20,000 is still more than a stretch haha! I suspect that it will probably go above the estimation. Would be lovely if it is bought by a museum!

Lynnae said...

I Love it! I want a replica! How sweet to think about something Jane Cherished being held so closely by her family all this time. It's too bad they are letting it go, yet I'm glad we get to see it. The auction is on my birthday, so if anyone wants to get it for me that would be awesome.

annamaria said...

Love Jane, love the ring! What a beautiful color:)Of course she would have delighted in it!

bluffkinghal said...

Wow, what a piece of history! A bit large for someone who likes it plain and simple. ;) But it was the days of more is good.

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

antique jewelry said...

I really liked this site of Lorette Chase and Isabella in which they have mentioned some interesting facts about history which we would not be knowing.I would want to know more about this ring of Ms Austen.

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting.

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Anonymous said...

Do we have any idea which finger Ms. Austen may have worn the ring on? I would like to get a reproduction of the ring, but not sure for which finger. Any ideas?

Jane Austen Giftshop Bath said...

Hello All,

Just stumbled across this post from last year. Thought I would let anyone interested know that we now stock a replica of this ring in our store:

http://www.janeaustengiftshop.co.uk/collections/jewellery/products/turquoise-ring-jane-austen-reproduction-gold

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