At an auction in England last year, American pop singer Kelly Clarkson placed a winning bid on a ring once owned by British author Jane Austen. The American Idol winner paid £ 152,450 (about $230,000) for the ring, which is one of only three pieces of Austen’s jewellery known to exist. However, the UK was loathe to let the culturally and historically important ring leave British territory.
On August 1, the country’s cultural minister opted to categorize the gold-and-turquoise ring as a national treasure, and put a temporary ban on the export of the ring in the hopes that money could be raised to keep it in the UK’s Jane Austen’s House museum. Clarkson has agreed to sell the ring should a buyer come forward. Now, an anonymous donor has given £ 100,000 pounds (close to $150,000 U.S.) to the museum to help them achieve that goal. The museum must meet the auction price—and has until December to raise the remaining funds.
“We have very few of Austen’s effects, so the ring is very unusual,” Louise West, Jane Austen’s House Museum manager, told The Guardian as to their interest in the ring. “It has very good provenance.” The ring was given to Austen’s sister, Cassandra, after the author died at age 41 in 1817. The ring remained in the family until it was sold at a Sotheby’s auction last year. The museum was aware of the ring’s auction, but was unprepared when the bids went far above the £ 30,000 reserve price. Once the government stepped in to stop the export, the museum launched a fundraising campaign. The efforts, which just began on Friday, already netted £ 103,200 of the £ 152,450 asking price. “We are two-thirds of the way there in 48 hours, which is tremendous, but we’re not there yet,” said West.
The museum, which is housed in Austen’s former home in Hampshire, England, has on display a turquoise bracelet and topaz cross, which also belonged to the author of such beloved literary classics as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility . The Jane Austen’s House museum has invited Clarkson to visit the collection the next time she’s in England, which is undoubtedly cold comfort to Clarkson. The singer is an Austen fan who already owns a first edition of Persuasion, the author’s final completed novel.