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The Jane Austen Turquoise Ring – The History

Jane Austen Turquoise ring

The Jane Austen Turquoise Ring

There are only three pieces of jewellery which we know belonged to and were worn by Jane Austen. Few mentions are made of her jewellery within the letters written by Jane or to Jane, so it’s unknown how many pieces of jewellery owned by her may have existed but been lost over time.

However, given Jane’s relatively modest means throughout her life, it’s fair to suppose that her collection of jewellery would not have been vast. This makes the pieces which we do know of – the topaz cross (given to Jane by her brother Charles in 1801), the blue glass-bead bracelet (a seven-inch long, one-inch wide bracelet made of six strands of beads fastened with a gilt clasp), and the turquoise and gold ring, that much more precious. Of these three, the turquoise and gold ring is by far the most iconic.

What is the Jane Austen turquoise ring made of?

The ring has a vibrant blue stone which contains no obvious blemishes or veins in it. Originally it was speculated that the stone may not be turquoise, but was rather a stone called Odontalite – a cheaper substitute for turquoise. However, when Sotheby’s auction house examined the ring more closely prior to selling it (more on that later), it was proven to be genuine turquoise. This gave rise to ask who it was who had given Jane the ring. Whether she bought it for herself, or whether it was a gift from one of her brothers, or even whether it may have been an engagement ring (though this would be highly surprising given that the closest she came to a known engagement was with her fiance of approximately twelve hours; Harris Bigg-Wither).

Whatever the origin of the ring, the stone being that of turquoise is significant. In Western countries, turquoise is the stone traditionally given to those born in December – Jane was born on the 16th of December in 1775. It was also a stone which was becoming more readily available and popular throughout the Regency period, thanks to the easy trade routes which were in place from Egypt and Africa.

The turquoise stone is set in a small gold plain band. Its petite size gives us an idea of how dainty Jane’s hands would have been.

The ring is thought to have been created between 1750 and 1800.

What happened to the Jane Austen turquoise ring after her death?

Immediately following Jane’s death in 1817, the ring was kept by Jane’s sister Cassandra. Then, in 1820, Jane’s brother Henry remarried following the death of his first wife (Jane’s cousin Eliza de Feuillide). Cassandra presented the ring as a gift to Henry’s new wife, Eleanor Jackson.

The next Austen who the ring passed to was Jane’s niece, Caroline Austen. It was given to her in 1863, a year before Eleanor’s death, along with a note, which still accompanies the ring today.

Note from Eleanor Austen (Jackson) to Caroline Austen.

The note reads thusly: “My dear Caroline. 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!”

The ring continues to be passed down through the Austen family, before it was put up for auction by Sotheby’s auction house in 2012. The ring was famously purchased by the American pop singer, Kelly Clarkson. She paid £152,450 for the ring; which was over five times the reserve price of £30,000.

The ring might have vanished once more from the public eye from that moment, were it not for a piece of legislation which was invoked by Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister at the time. He placed an export ban upon the ring which stopped it from leaving the country. The other thing which this ban meant was that there was a period of time during which UK museums or consortiums could raise money in order to try and match what Clarkson had paid for the ring and stop it from being sold.

How did the export ban work?

The ring was classed as ‘Cultural Goods’, i.e. a work of art which could not pass freely in and out of the UK. The ring was deemed as such since it was more than fifty years old and of high value. Any ‘Cultural Good’ which is sold to a foreign buyer, or is due to leave the UK for sale elsewhere, requires an export license. During the license process, the cultural good is evaluated to determine whether or not it is a ‘National Treasure’.

To be a ‘National Treasure’, the object must meet one or more of the three ‘Waverley Criteria’. These are:

 

  • Historical importance: is it so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune?

 

  • Aesthetic importance: is it of outstanding aesthetic importance?

 

  • Importance for scholarship: is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history?

If it is a National Treasure, a temporary export bar can be placed on the object. This gives UK institutions up to a year to raise funds to match the foreign offer. If that happens, then the foreign buyer can either sell the object or withdraw the application for an export license. They will retain ownership, but they will have to keep the object in the UK. If they choose this path, they can’t request another export license for ten years.

Therefore, a campaign to keep the Jane Austen turquoise ring was launched following the announcement of the temporary ban.

In 2013, the ring, along with its box and its letters of authenticity, were bought by Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton in 2013. The campaign raised £157,740 in total following donations from around the world, and one anonymous donation of £100,000.

Documentation showing the ownership of the ring

Replicas of the Jane Austen turquoise ring are available to buy and can be found in the Jane Austen Online Gift Shop here.

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‘The Jane Austen Turquoise Ring – The History’ Article was written by Jenni Waugh
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Jane Austen News – Issue 59

The Jane Austen News is: Martin Salter

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Mr Bennet With Us For Ten Years!!!    
Our Mr Bennet (A.K.A. Martin, our meeter-greeter who welcomes all our visitors to the Jane Austen Centre) has been with us for ten years! So to celebrate we arranged a little surprise for him…


10 Must-See Locations for Literature Lovers 

The Telegraph recently published their top ten literary tours that literature lovers ought to take this year. Happily, a tour of Jane Austen’s England was on the list…but only at number five! Even though this year is Jane Austen 200 and events are taking place all over the country to celebrate!

So who beat her in the top ten?

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 59

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Jane Austen News – Issue 33

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?

 

Colin Firth Doesn’t Think Mr Darcy Is Attractive

mr-darcy-coverColin Firth has confessed that he doesn’t understand why Mr Darcy is so popular. In fact he said that he took the role not to be a heart-throb but because he “thought it would be quite fun and liberating to play someone who was completely and utterly dislikeable, unsympathetic, judgemental and snobbish.”

While speaking to the Daily Mail he also said;

I didn’t have to think about bringing charm to the role – the way I saw it, I just had to stand there and make everyone hate me … then this weird thing happened where people liked him, which wasn’t what I was expecting at all! We’re 20 years on and I still don’t understand it.

He may not understand how it happened, but he most definitely did make Mr Darcy a success.


And Adrain Lukis Doesn’t Think Mr Wickham Is That Bad     

1jarw.jpg.galleryFrom one actor with an unusual take on his character to another.

Many would consider Mr Wickham, with his attempted, and later successful, elopements and his constant lying, to be the villain of Pride and Prejudice. However, Adrian Lukis who played him in the 1995 BBC production doesn’t see him that way.

While speaking to reporter Flora Thompson he said

I do not see Wickham as an out-and-out villain. People are not meant to see him as that – he is an adventurer, he doesn’t have any money – we all know someone like that. He lives on his wits.

I went about preparing for the character by using how he is described by others in the book – he is seen as an amiable man who is economical with the truth. That’s how I chose to play him, not as an archetypal villain.


Ever Jane – Jane Austen as a Role Playing Game

i927zkeoe3ecgqmucfz8Following a successful Kickstarter campaign which was begun in 2013 and raised $US110,000, the new Jane Austen MMORG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game –  a type of game genre which allows thousands of gamers to play in the game’s evolving virtual world at the same time) called Ever Jane has reached its beta test stages.

The full game is set to be released next year and can involve quests such as delivering a handkerchief or wrangling a sheep, and character stats, including status, kindness, duty and reputation. One tester said of the game: “I encountered about a dozen characters total, all of whom remained dapper and spoke in proper English throughout my in-game travels, which at one point led me to an elegant ballroom.”

The lead developer of the game, Judy L. Tyrer, does make it clear that this is not your normal online game; “It’s not about kill or be killed, but invite or be invited. Instead of raids, we will have grand balls. Instead of dungeons, we will have dinner parties.”

At the Jane Austen News we’re most curious to see the finished result when it’s available next year!


Author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to be Sued by Publisher  

Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesAlways a controversial subject among Austen fans is that of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Now its author Seth Grahame-Smith is in hot water again, only this time with his publisher.

In 2010, Grahame-Smith signed a $1 million deal for two books; one a follow-up to his book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the second a novel on a new topic to be delivered in 2013. Both, unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, were meant to be entirely his own work and not a mash-up with another classic author’s work. Unfortunately after 34 months of delays, Grahame-Smith finally submitted a manuscript so disappointing that his publisher Hachette has filed a lawsuit against him for the money which they had advanced for the works.

Hachette’s legal complaint says that the new manuscript was meant to be “original with Author in all respects,” (Hachette describes the manuscript he submitted as “in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public-domain work”) and said that it “is not comparable in style and quality to Smith’s wholly original bestseller Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Grahame-Smith is yet to make a statement commenting on the lawsuit.


If Zack Synder Did Sense and Sensibility…     

Zack Snyder – director of the films 300Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a very distinct style. He goes for moody, dark, rain soaked, shots full of slow-motion effects in his films. This is great for thrillers and action films, but not an approach we at the Jane Austen News would naturally think of using for the retelling of a literary classic.

So with this juxtaposition in mind some of his fans have made a parody imaging what it might be like if he did. Sense and Sensibility Synder-style begins in the film below at 1:30.


National Treasures That Have Nearly Been Lost   

_90941634_coronet_2A sapphire and diamond coronet given to Queen Victoria by her beloved husband Albert has been placed under a temporary export bar, just like Jane Austen’s famous turquoise ring once was after Kelly Clarkson bought it at auction.  

A temporary export bar is something which the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest can place on an object deemed as a national treasure. This bar stops the object from leaving the country for a time in order that UK-based individuals or institutions can attempt to raise enough money to buy and keep it.

The asking price for the 11.5cm wide coronet, which is mounted with 11 sapphires all set in gold and diamonds set in silver, has an asking price of £5million. The Department for Culture Media and Sport said a final decision over the export licence on the coronet will be deferred until 27 December.

We’ll have to wait and see if, like with Jane’s ring, the bar is successful in saving the coronet from being sent overseas.


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

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