The fate of ownership over author Jane Austen’s ring will be decided in December, if not sooner. It is currently owned by singer Kelly Clarkson, who bought it at a Sotheby’s auction last year. Under British law, the government can temporarily prevent works from being exported if they are considered national treasures. As a result, Clarkson is wearing a replica of the ring.
Jane Austen’s House Museum, in the English village of Chawton, Hampshire, has until December to raise £152,450 ($235,672), to match the 2002 American Idol winner’s bid. Their website’s home page has the announcement posted including amount needed, received so far, and contact information. The museum has raised £103,200 just since Friday with £100,000 ($155,000) from an anonymous donor.
The ring in question is turquoise and gold. After Austen died, it went to her sister, Cassandra, who later gave it as an engagement present to her future sister-in-law. It stayed in the family until last year’s auction.
Clarkson is an avid fan of the internationally acclaimed author, and owns a first edition of one of Austen’s novels, Persuasion. This book was completed in 1816 but wasn’t published until after her death in 1817.
Another of her books, Pride and Prejudice is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. It is estimated that approximately 50,000 copies have sold every year just in the UK since her death. The author, born in 1775, continues to be popular all over the world.
The large cottage in Chawton was where she spent the last eight years of her life. This was where the author did some of her best and most prolific writing, publishing four novels during that time. That same cottage has been preserved and is Jane Austen’s House Museum.
The staff has invited Clarkson to visit next time she is in England. A fundraiser for the museum said the American pop singer’s interest in Austen is more evidence of the author’s continued popularity. As far as the ring goes, even though it belonged to Jane Austen and her family, it’s too soon to know the final decision.
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent