A ring once owned by author Jane Austen will be auctioned by Sotheby's later this month. Austen, the author of the much-loved novels "Pride and Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Emma," never married or had children, but the ring has remained in the possession of her family since her death in 1817. Scholars had been unaware of its existence, and it is expected to sell at auction for $31,000 to $46,000.
The ring is made of gold with a cabachon blue stone of natural turquoise. It is, as Sotheby's auction house notes, in a simple style Austen wrote of sympathetically in her work. In "Mansfield Park," Fanny Price is given a gold chain by her cousin Edmund, who tells her, "I consulted the simplicity of your taste."
The jewelry is given to Fanny "in all the niceness of jewellers packing," just as the ring remains in its original box. It comes with letters dating back to 1863 describing its provenance: The ring was passed from Jane Austen to sister Cassandra Austen to sister-in-law Eleanor Austen to niece Caroline Mary Craven Austen to niece Mary A. Austen-Leigh to her niece, Mary Dorothy Austen-Leigh, then to her sister, Winifred Jenkyns, who passed it to her descendants.
The ring will be offered at Sotheby's English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations auction on July 10. The auction includes many sets of letters, and superb copies of the "Shakespeare Fourth Folio" (est. $124,000 to $186,000), Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre" (est. $93,000 to $124,000), and Charles Darwin’s "On the "Origin of Species" (est. $77,000 to $108,000). It also includes fine first editions of Jane Austen's novels "Mansfield Park" (est. $4,600 to $7,700), "Northanger Abbey" and "Persuasion" (est. $3,800 to $5,400), "Emma" (est. $15,500 to $23,000) and "Pride and Prejudice" (est. $31,000 to $46,000).
Hat tip to the Paris Review blog for spotting Jane Austen's ring for sale.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Jane Austen's ring and a note about it, written by Eleanor Austen. Credit: Sotheby's