A ring that once belonged to Jane Austen was sold at auction for an astonishing $236,557 on Tuesday.
Sotheby’s London auction house had predicted that the ring would sell for as much as $45,000, but auctioneers were surprised by the final figure the closely-held family heirloom brought in.
“The price achieved today is a remarkable testament to Jane Austen’s enduring appeal and her place at the heart of our literary and cultural heritage,” Dr. Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in Sotheby's book and manuscript department, stated in a press release after the auction.
The natural turquoise ring set in gold originally belonged to the “Pride and Prejudice” author who bequeathed it to her sister, Cassandra, after her death in 1817. Cassandra then gave it as a gift to their future sister in-law, Eleanor.
Eight international bidders competed for the ring, which is enclosed in a box contemporary to the time. Bought by an anonymous collector, it was accompanied by 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 piece was unknown to Austen scholars and fans until the family stepped forward to sell it, making it all the more exciting.
“That this ring only surfaced recently makes me wonder what else of hers is out there that we don’t know about,” Austen expert and author of “Jane Austen and the Theatre,” Paula Byrne told TODAY.com. “She comes from a large family, and things were often given as gifts to other family members. There could still be quite a lot of Austen’s dispersed treasures that we haven’t yet laid eyes on.”
Rachel Elbaum is a London-based writer who has read most of Jane Austen's books at least twice.