It’s official. American pop star Kelly Clarkson has been stymied in her bid to claim the 200-year-old turquoise ring once owned by famed British novelist Jane Austen.
Clarkson — an avid Austen fan — had won the ring last summer at a Sotheby’s auction in London, having outbid a cadre of competitors, including the Jane Austen’s House Museum. Clarkson’s winning bid was $235,000 — more than five times the auction house’s high estimate.
But instead of allowing Clarkson to take the ring back to the U.S., British authorities unexpectedly declared the ring a “national treasure” and temporarily blocked its export. If a British patron could match Clarkson’s winning bid before September 30, the singer would have to forfeit the ring so it could stay in the U.K.
Seizing the opportunity to get back into the game, Jane Austen’s House Museum launched an aggressive fundraising appeal through its website and Facebook page. Donations from around the world flooded into the “Bring the Ring Home” campaign, and within a month the museum had an infusion of $253,000 — more than enough to match Clarkson’s bid.
Mary Guyatt, curator of the museum, said she had been "stunned by the generosity" of those who had supported the appeal.
U.K. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey added: "It's clear from the number of people who gave generously to the campaign just how admired Jane Austen remains to this day."
Despite the drama surrounding the Austen ring, Clarkson has maintained a positive attitude. She graciously commented that “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."
In the meantime, Clarkson is enjoying her exact replica of the Austen ring — a bauble purchased by Clarkson’s fiancé Brandon Blackstock. She’s worn it to many high-profile events, including the most recent U.S. Presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., where she performed for dignitaries and a national television audience.
Austen, the author of Pride and Prejudice and five other iconic novels of the early 19th century, died in 1817 at age 41 and left the turquoise ring to her sister; it remained in the family until it was sold at the Sotheby’s auction last year.