There’s no dispute over the latest piece of Jane Austen memorabilia to come to market, however. The ring, has never left Jane’s family, being passed down from Jane to her sister Cassandra, and then through various Austen descendants to the present day. The ring has been so privately cherished that, as the auction catalogue notes, it has been “hitherto unknown to scholars.” It’s unlikely to remain unknown any longer. Set to be auctioned by Sotheby’s on July 11, the pre-sale estimated price is £20,000-£30,000, and no one will be surprised if the final sale is for much more.
The ring is simple and elegant. The stone is believed to be odontalite, a popular 19th c substitute for turquoise, and the setting is gold. Jane’s taste in jewelry was understated, and in letters to her sister Cassandra, she notes a preference for pieces “neat and plain.”Still in an early 19th c jeweler’s box that may be the original (“T.West, Goldsmith, Ludgate Street, near St Paul’s”), the ring is also accompanied by a descriptive note by Eleanor Austen, the third owner, and wife to Jane’s brother Rev. Henry Thomas Austen. Provenance is everything in memorabilia, and this is as perfect as any collector could wish.