UK Department for Culture
Singer Kelly Clarkson tried to buy this ring that once belonged to English novelist Jane Austen.
LONDON -- "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson has been forced to sell a $250,000 gold and turquoise ring once owned by English novelist Jane Austen after a museum raised enough cash to keep the item in the U.K.
Clarkson, who is a fan of the 19th-century author, bought the ring at a London auction where she paid more than five times the reserve price of £30,000 (about $48,000).
However, the U.K. government imposed a temporary export ban in August. Such measures can be imposed on items considered to be "national treasures." The ring had been in Austen’s family for 200 years and lawmakers hoped enough money could be raised to buy it from Clarkson and put it on public display.
On Monday, Jane Austen's House Museum announced it had raised the £157,740 (about $250,000) needed to match Clarkson’s bid and keep the ring at home.
Clarkson has agreed to re-sell the ring and it will now be kept at the museum, which is where Austen lived the last eight years of her life until her death in 1817.
John Shearer / AP
Kelly Clarkson performs at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in February.
The 31-year-old singer was gracious on hearing her purchase had been thwarted.
“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.
Museum assistant Isabel Snowden said expressed sympathy toward Clarkson, but pointed out the temporary export ban is not a new or unexpected phenomenon.
“We do feel sorry for her because she paid for it in good faith,” Snowden told NBC News on Tuesday. “But perhaps someone should have explained to her what could happen? The export ban has been around for about 60 years and applies to items such as this one which are bought for over a certain amount.
“It is very unfortunate for Kelly but she has been incredibly gracious. She is happy for the ring to be in the museum and we hope she comes and visits – we would be delighted to have her.”
The fundraising campaign came easily within its September 30 deadline and was given an unexpected boost with an anonymous £100,000 donation. Contributions came from all over the world, including the U.S., Snowden said.
Mary Guyatt, curator of Jane Austen’s House Museum, said: “The museum has been stunned by the generosity and light-footedness of all those who have supported our campaign to meet the costs of acquiring Jane Austen’s ring for our permanent collection.”
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey was one of those responsible for imposing the export ban in August.
“The export licensing system provides us with a last chance to save treasures like these for the nation so they can be enjoyed by all of us,” the Conservative lawmaker said in a statement. “It’s clear from the number of people who gave generously to the campaign just how admired Jane Austen remains to this day.”
Jane Austen lived from 1775 until 1817, and died aged 41 in the building which now houses her eponymous museum.
Works such as "Pride and Prejudice," "Emma," and "Sense and Sensibility" have made her one of the most widely read writers in history.
In June, the Bank of England announced that from 2017 Austen’s face will succeed that of Charles Darwin on the country's £10 note.
First published September 24 2013, 4:04 AM