Visitors come to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath for many reasons. Some come as part of a tour they are doing of Jane Austen locations across the UK, some stumble upon us while visiting Bath, some visit us on specific family outings, or on school trips. The list of reasons goes on. However, we were recently visited by a gentleman who had a more unusual reason for coming to see us.
Last week one of our visitors came to the Jane Austen Centre to propose to his girlfriend. And we’re delighted to say that she said yes!
It was a very special moment for the couple, and we wish them many years of happiness.
She went after dinner to shew her ring…
Pride and Prejudice
The Telegraph recently reported on a gold and turquoise ring belonging to Jane Austen which sold for more than £150,000 at an auction in London – more than five times its estimate.
The turquoise gemstone was actually quite popular in the Regency. Easy trade routs from Egypt and Africa ensured that this bright blue stone remained both an affordable luxury, and easily available.
According to Amy Willis, “The ring, which featured a large oval turquoise gemstone, was sold alongside a handwritten letter by her sister-in-law Eleanor Austen (Henry Austen’s second wife) bequeathing the rare jewel to her niece Caroline. The note, dated 1863, confirms the item belonged to the 19th-century British author.
“My dear Caroline,” Eleanor wrote. “The enclosed ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!”
“Jane Austen’s simple and modest ring is a wonderfully intimate and evocative possession,” said Dr Gabriel Heaton, a manuscript specialist at Sotheby’s auction house.”
It is interesting to note that original appraisers of the turquoise ring assumed it to be odontalite, a much less expensive stone that was often used to imitate this luxury item. Sotheby’s first description stated that the ring reflected both Jane Austen’s “taste in jewelry” and “modest income”. A second examination, however, proved that the stone was indeed genuine gold and turquoise, raising speculation as to whom it came from and that the ring might even have been an engagement ring. No one seems to know how the turquoise ring came into Jane’s possession, but it has been in the Austen family ever since, until its recent purchase by an anonymous bidder.
In any event, it is a beautiful piece and adds a bit more to our knowledge of Jane (note that the colour is a beautiful match to the bracelet owned by the Chawton Cottage Museum) and raises even more questions, revealing how much we really just don’t know about her private life.
Visit our giftshop to purchase your own turquoise jewelry, and be sure to check out Jane Smith’s Regency Reproductions, inspired by Jane.