From USA Today:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an antique ring once owned by Jane Austen would have to stay in the U.K., even if purchased by an American pop star.
Austen worshipers in Britain are celebrating today at news that the Jane Austen’s House Museum has raised enough money to keep Austen’s ring in the U.K.. That means singer Kelly Clarkson, the firstAmerican Idol winner, can’t take possession of the gold-and-turquoise bauble she bought at auction last year and hoped to wear as her engagement ring.
British media are reporting with some glee that Clarkson has been “thwarted” in her desire to take the ring to the USA, after the Austen museum announced it had raised more than 157,000 pounds (about $248,000) to meet the conditions of the export ban slapped on the ring by the British government.
‘The museum has raised enough cash to buy the ring and save it for the public in the U.K.,’ crowed The Guardian.
Clarkson was gracious in defeat. ‘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,’ she said in a statement.
Like most countries with deep reserves of art and antiques (but not the USA), Britain can block the export of items it considers national treasures. Anything belonging to the divine Miss Austen is considered sufficiently rare, if not outright sacred, to keep in the country, since very little else owned by Austen remains. Austen left the ring to her sister, and it had remained in her family for two centuries.
After Clarkson won the ring at a Sotheby’s auction, paying five times the pre-auction estimate, she applied for an export license. But the Brits nixed that in hopes that someone would match the sale price, pay off Clarkson and keep the ring in the country on public display.
It worked. Starting in August, donations from Austen fans, including $158,000 from an anonymous donor, flowed into the museum in Austen’s former home in Hampshire. Museum officials said they were stunned and thrilled at the success of their campaign and promised the ring would go on display soon.
Meanwhile, Clarkson, a keen Austen fan herself who is due to marry soon, is wearing a replica.