The cabochon turquoise and gold ring that was bought at auction last July by singer Kelly Clarkson will not be departing English soil after all. A local museum has raised the funds to buy it from the singer and keep it in the country.
According to British law, objects of cultural patrimony 50 years old or older and above a certain monetary value must be reviewed by an expert committee before they are licensed for export. If the committee finds that the artifact is of national importance, it recommends that the Culture Ministry block export to give a local buyer time to raise the purchase price.
On the recommendation of the committee, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey blocked the export of the ring because as one of only three surviving pieces of jewelry known to have belonged to Jane Austen (the other two are a topaz cross and a turquoise bracelet), it’s an irreplaceable cultural object. He gave British buyers until September 30th to come up with the £152,450 ($244,000) Clarkson spent on the ring. She agreed that she would willingly sell it so that the bauble could remain in England.
Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, the house where Austen wrote all six of her finished novels and lived for the last eight years of her life, was keen to secure the ring for the nation and for its permanent collection of Austeniana. The cross and bracelet that are the only other jewels confirmed as having belonged to Jane Austen are part of the Austen House Museum collection and the museum had in fact been one of the bidders for the ring at the auction. Unfortunately, the modest museum wasn’t able to stay in contention as the cost far exceeded the £30,000 pre-sale estimate. After the announcement of the temporary export block in August, Jane Austen’s House Museum launched a fundraiser to give them a second bite at the turquoise apple.
On Monday, just over a week before the September 30th deadline, the museum announced they’ve raised sufficient funds to purchase the ring from Ms. Clarkson. An anonymous donor got the fundraising campaign two-thirds of the way there by pledging £100,000 and Austen fans all over the world donated the remaining £52,450.
Mary Guyatt, curator, said “The Museum has been stunned by the generosity and light-footedness of all those who have supported our campaign to meet the costs of acquiring Jane Austen’s ring for our permanent collection. Visitors come from all around the world to see the house where she once lived and we will now take great pleasure in displaying this pretty ring for their appreciation.”
Kelly Clarkson, who had already accepted the museum’s purchase offer before the announcement was made, graciously responded to the news:
“The ring is a beautiful national treasure and I am happy to know that so many Jane Austen fans will get to see it at Jane Austen’s House Museum.”
The museum hopes Ms. Clarkson will go visit the ring she owned for a short but sweet time. It is scheduled to go on display at the museum come the new year.