A ring worn by Jane Austen, sold to the chart-topping American singer Kelly Clarkson at auction last year, is at the centre of a £152,450 fundraising appeal by a Hampshire museum after a government decision to bar the nationally-important artefact from leaving the UK.
Jane Austen’s House Museum has until September to raise the total, which was more than five times the expected price when the ring went on sale in a hotly-contested Sotheby’s auction. Museum organisers say their attempts to contact Clarkson, a history enthusiast who has sold more than 20 million albums since winning television show American Idol in 2002, have been unsuccessful.
Announcing the export bar, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey declared the ring “closely connected with our history and national life”, calling its potential departure “a misfortune”.
“Jane Austen’s modest lifestyle and her early death mean that objects associated with her of any kind are extremely rare,” he added.
“I hope that a UK buyer comes forward so this simple but elegant ring can be saved for the nation.”
Cast in gold and turquoise, the ring is said to be in excellent condition, accompanied by papers charting its ownership. It was passed to Austen’s sister, Cassandra, who subsequently gave it to her sister-in-law, Eleanor, to mark her engagement.
The Chawton museum is hoping to complete a hat-trick of historic treasures – a topaz cross and bracelet on display are the only other items of jewellery known to have been worn by Austen during her lifetime.
The buying period will be extended until December if the campaign, dubbed To Bring the Ring Home, nears the target.
Any individual buyer would be required to put the ring on public display in a museum, gallery or archive for at least 100 days each year under the terms of the bar.
“Jane Austen treasured her simple jewellery,” said Philippa Glanville, of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.
“This pretty ring, a rare survival, evokes her personality and expresses the strong feelings attached to rings at the time.”
Export bars have also been placed on the Bentley Blower racing car of track superstar Sir Henry Birkin, the archive of 18th century military hero James Wolfe and paintings and ephemera from Australia by the 19th century explorer Thomas Baines.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01420 83262 to find out more about the To Bring Home the Ring campaign and donate.