Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 29 2016 01:00PM

And here’s an interesting footnote to the tale of Jane Austen’s ring – bought at auction four years ago by American singer Kelly Clarkson, then bought back by Jane Austen’s House Museum, after British authorities refused to let Clarkson take this priceless piece of British heritage out of the country.


Turns out Clarkson isn’t the only rich collector to run afoul of this particular element of UK export law. Just yesterday the BBC reported that a sapphire-and-diamond coronet Prince Albert designed for Queen Victoria to wear at their 1840 wedding is under the same temporary ban that ultimately prevented Clarkson from exporting the Austen ring.


In the past decade, the ban, which gives potential UK buyers time to match the price offered by the would-be exporter, has also been invoked, with mixed success, to thwart the removal of an 1842 landscape by JMW Turner, a classic Bentley racing car, a medieval Italian panel and a beloved Picasso, the BBC reports.


I get why objects owned or created by British artists or rulers count as British national treasures, but not why Italian and Spanish paintings that just happen to be owned by UK collectors earn this designation. A teensy bit colonialist, no? But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to encounter this attitude in a country that still won’t return the Elgin Marbles.


By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 11 2016 01:00PM

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of a Janeite teapot tempest – the purchase at auction, by American singer Kelly Clarkson, of a turquoise ring that once belonged to Jane Austen.


As you will recall, Clarkson paid £152,000 -- pre-Brexit, the equivalent of about $236,000 -- for the rare Austen relic, only to be legally barred from taking a national treasure out of Great Britain. A year later, Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton raised enough money to buy the ring back from her, and it’s now on permanent display. Clarkson had to make do with a replica, a gift from her fiance, which she wore when she sang at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.


For a mere fraction of what Clarkson paid, it’s possible for any Janeite to fairly drip with Austen-ish turquoise jewelry: Through the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, you can now buy a replica of the ring, plus matching pendant and earrings, for $332. (What, no bracelet? No nose ring?)


Jane Austen and I share the same December birth month, and thus the same turquoise birthstone, so you’d think I would be lining up for these items. But – shh! Don’t tell! – I think the ring is kind of ugly. I’ve never much liked turquoise. Sorry, Kelly. And Jane.


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