Jane Austen Jewellery - The Three Pieces
In November 1863 a young lady by the name of Caroline received a small package containing a ring with the accompanying note :
" 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 to engaged to your Uncle - I bequeath it to you. God bless you."
Eleanor Austen, November 1863
The ring so described was the gold and turquoise ring which once belonged to one of the nation's greatest novelists, Jane Austen. Caroline Austen, the second daughter of Jane's eldest brother James became the custodian of this now treasured object. It remained in the Austen family until 2012. Why Jane, who had very few items of jewellery owned this ring is not clear, was it a gift from her brother Henry who resided in London? The jewellery box is clearly marked T. West Goldsmith, Ludgate Street, near St. Pauls. Another possibility is that Jane having achieved a number of successful book publications and acquiring some wealth may have purchased it for herself. Or is it a ring from an admirer? The fact remains that the ring was Jane Austen's but how she acquired it and whether it has more significance we do not know.
In 2012 the ring was sent to Sotheby's Auctioneers by a family member and was deemed to be genuine due to a collection of accompanying family letters, providing provenance. Listed for £20,000 - £30,000 the sale took place on 10th July 2012. The bidding greatly exceeded the guide price and the ring was purchased by the American singer Kelly Clarkson. for £152,450.00. Jane's ring was going to America! It would be there to this day if the government minister Ed Vaizey had not placed a temporary export ban on the ring now a "national treasure", which prevented it from leaving the country. This gave The Jane Austen House Museum time to raise enough money to buy the item from Kelly Clarkson, thus ensuring the ring remained in the UK.
The ring itself is a bright turquoise unmarked stone set on a simple 9ct gold band. The stone is oval in shape and there has been much debate over whether it was an actual turquoise or the less precious odontolite. When Sotheby's examined the ring it was proven to be a genuine turquoise. A very pretty ring but also very dainty signifying the petite fingers of Jane herself. A turquoise is associated with a December birth date and so very suitable for and personal to Jane.
THE TOPAZ CROSS
Another item of jewellery belonging to Jane Austen was a beautiful clear topaz cross with gold setting and chain. There were in fact two such crosses gifted to Jane and her sister Cassandra by their youngest brother Charles, it is not certain which one belonged to which sister. They were given to Jane and Cassandra in 1801 after Charles, a Second Lieutenant in the English navy, had received £40 as prize money for capturing enemy ships off the Spanish coast. He spent the complete sum on these jewels causing Jane to write to Cassandra "What avail is it to take prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his sisters?" However she was quite delighted to accept these gifts as at this time her talents were being employed in the art of thriftiness due to a down turn in the family's finances, a tiresome experience for Jane who was now living in Bath. These jewels helped to boost her mood and were a lovely sign of their brother's affection and a symbol of the family's Christianity. Jane was brought up in the Church of England and her upbringing encouraged kindness and gratitude. In her writings we often see her disproval of characters who display uncharitable behaviour towards the less fortunate. These crosses are now on display at Jane's home, Chawton Cottage, Alton, now The Jane Austen's House Museum.
THE BEADED BRACELET
The final piece of jewellery in this trilogy is the very fine beaded six string bracelet. Made from turquoise blue glass beads and ivory beads with a brass clasp. This item of jewellery was not as costly as Jane's other pieces, but was a very intricate piece. It consisted of six strands of blue beads interlocked at five points with small ivory beads, only one inch in width and seven inches in length. This item was given to the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton having been kept in the Austen family until the early 20th century. It had been in the possession of Mary Augusta Austen-Leigh, the daughter of Jane's nephew Rev. James Edward Austen-Leigh. We can only assume that after Jane's death her sister Cassandra would have given some of Jane's personal effects to her family as keepsakes. The family now rightly proud of Jane's writings and associated fame soon realised the importance of these items. It is a credit to Jane's family and the work of the Jane Austen's House Museum, that these three pieces of literary history are now available for Jane Austen fans to view.
Please feel free to browse our own Jane Austen inspired and regency style jewellery at our online shop https://thejaneaustenshop.co.uk/collections/jewellery