A simple stone ring that once belonged to Jane Austen is going up for auction next month, with estimates that it will bring in as much as $46,000.
The natural turquoise ring set in gold was unknown to Austen scholars and fans until now. It originally belonged to the “Pride and Prejudice” author who passed it down to her sister, Cassandra, after her death. Cassandra then gave it to their future sister in-law, Eleanor. It remained in this large family until now when the owner, who has no daughters, decided to sell it.
“When I first heard about the ring, my initial thought was, ‘Well this will be a few minutes of my time to tell this family why it’s probably not authentic,’” Dr. Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in Sotheby's book and manuscript department, told TODAY.com. “As I heard more of their story, I was astonished that something as exciting as this ring was out there and it was unknown to the Austen community. It’s exactly what you would imagine on Jane Austen’s finger: Tasteful, simple, elegant and beautifully formed.”
The ring, which lies in a box contemporary to the time, is being auctioned off along with a note written in November 1863 by Eleanor Austen to her niece Caroline Austen, reading: "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 most famous piece of jewelry owned by Austen is a topaz cross, now on display in the Jane Austens’s House Museum in England. The turquoise ring is the first piece of her jewelry to be up for auction in at least a generation.
Little is known about how Austen came to possess the ring. Unlike other pieces, it isn’t mentioned in any of Austen’s letters or writings, although she does mention other pieces.
Sotheby’s, which will auction the item on July 10, has set its estimate for the ring’s value between $30,000 and $46,000, which is a value of its history, not the materials of the ring. But Austen expert Paula Byrne expects that the ring will sell for even more than the estimate.
“It’s so unusual for a piece of Jane Austen’s jewelry to go to auction,” says Byrne, author of “Jane Austen and the Theatre,” and the upcoming book, “The Real Jane Austen.” “That this has only now come to light makes me wonder what else of hers is out there that we don’t yet know about.”