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We all know the saying, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. What girl doesn’t love a nice shiny diamond ring or necklace to add to her jewelry collection? But also, we all know that diamonds can be incredibly expensive, and it can be difficult to afford to buy them, let alone insuring them and making sure you take care of them properly.
Yet, When what she thought was a fake diamond turned out to be something very different — her life changed forever.
It all started back in London, England, during the 1980s. One woman was having a perfectly normal day when she decided to stop by a car boot sale at West Middlesex Hospital in West London. While she was there, her eye was caught by a particularly large and pretty-looking artificial diamond ring. The moment she set her eyes upon the ring, she knew she had to buy it.
It wasn’t the most convincing, because it wasn’t that shiny or bright, but nonetheless, this shopper decided that this lovely piece of costume jewelry would be perfect for her collection. She had no idea that she was about to seal her own fate. She looked at the ring and wore it on her finger to see if it suited her hands, and she loved it, so she decided to buy it for herself.
If you haven’t heard of a car boot sale before, it’s basically the British equivalent of a yard sale or flea market. People gather in a parking lot or similar area and set up stores to sell their second-hand items out of their trunks (called “boots” in British English). Hence the word, car boot sale. This is what the car boot sale actually is about. For this woman, it was going to be special.
It’s well-known that you can find real bargains at these sorts of sales, so this woman knew what she was doing when she managed to barter this ring down to a $ 15 dollar price tag. She knew she’d got a good deal, but she had no idea the truth of the item she had just purchased. She loved the design of the ring and that was all that she cared about. There was no reason for her not to buy it.
Obviously, the main reason people buy artificial diamonds, rather than real ones, is because they are much more affordable. Not many of us can spare a few thousand dollars to spring on a ring! Artificial diamond jewelry does the job for every girl out there, they are beautiful and look just like real diamonds. Artificial jewelry is given more priority these days, as they are affordable and look fashionable.
But another good thing about that is when your rings or jewelry aren’t that expensive, you can wear them much more often without worrying about them getting lost or damaged. This is another reason why people tend to go for artificial ones as they can flaunt them without having to worry to take care of them. And so after this woman bought her ring, she wore it pretty much every day—for almost 30 years.
Not only did this woman wear her ring almost every day over these years, but she also wore it while she was out and about, doing her everyday activities. Jessica Wyndham, head of UK auction house Sotheby’s London jewelry department, spoke to the BBC about the ring’s regular use. “The owner would wear it out shopping, wear it day-to-day,” she said. “It’s a good-looking ring.”
But why would wearing a ring for your everyday activities be a strange idea? And why was a woman from Sotheby’s talking about it in the news? There was something special about the ring that she chose to buy from the car boot sale the other day and that is pretty much why she is on the news, and also why you are currently reading about her story.
Read on to find out the twist in the tale.
When this woman bought her lovely ring from the car boot sale, she knew she was purchasing an old and artificial diamond. Not only because she was buying it for $15 from someone’s trunk, but because it just didn’t look like a real diamond. Don’t get us wrong, it was a pretty ring—but it just didn’t have that special sparkly quality or extra shine that real diamonds have.
The truth was, that the woman at the car boot sale did not really think much at all about buying this ring. She simply thought it was a nice-looking piece of jewelry that would look great with her collection. In fact, it was so big and obviously fake that she assumed it was some sort of costume accessory—rather than a real piece of jewelry.
For many years after buying the ring, this woman wore it happily, for her everyday activities and regular life. She loved it so much, that she didn’t even think about what it might actually be worth in terms of money—she just knew it was valuable to her as a much-loved accessory. She loved wearing it every day, although she never really paid enough attention to it to know that there was more to it.
But one day, about 30 years after she first bought it, a jeweler glanced at the ring and advised her to get it checked. Because this jeweler thought that this humble ring might actually be worth more than the woman had originally thought. “It was bought as a costume jewel,” said Wyndham. “No-one had any idea it had any intrinsic value at all. They enjoyed it all this time.” However, the ring’s owner was about to get a piece of advice that would change her life forever.
After the woman spoke to this jeweler, who suggested that the ring might actually be a real diamond and possibly of some value, it was immediately clear what she needed to do. And so she headed off to the renowned auction center in London, Sotheby’s, to ask them if they could help work out the true value of this ring. That was the best move she had made in regards to the ring.
“They came in with the idea that it might be real,” said Wyndham. “They had no idea of its value.” No one had any idea what they were about to discover. Of course, once they brought the ring into Sotheby’s for testing and valuation, they were one step closer on their quest to find out the truth about this much-loved item of jewelry. But the truth was, the ring was so rare and special that even Sotheby’s needed a bit of extra help.
The high Twenties
When the ring came back from the testing center, everyone was utterly amazed to find out the true results. Because this ring that had been part of the woman’s favorite jewelry collection, and had been wearing for 30 years—the ring she had assumed was some sort of costume item—was in fact a very real diamond ring. It wasn’t an ordinary artificial ring that she had been wearing all these years.
The auction house works in conjunction with many other places to try and ensure the correct value for each item. “We had a look,” said Wyndham, before adding that they, “got it tested at the Gemological Institute of America.” So just what exactly would they find across the pond? In fact, not only was it a genuine diamond—but it was a whopping 26-carat diamond! And that’s not the only amazing thing they discovered.
As you can imagine, the woman was utterly amazed by the true nature of what she had thought for so many years was just a normal ring. The testers explained that this diamond was not only a 26 carat one, but that it was a cushion-shaped white gem. She was surprised when she learned that. The ring she had bought from the car boot sale was in fact a real diamond ring!
And not only that—the testers also revealed that the precious jewel could date back as far as the 19th century. The woman was utterly in shock—how could they know that just from looking at it? But they had a procedure to find out the approximate age of a jewel, and from that, they could tell hers was an old find. This was a huge surprise to the woman, she had no idea what she was wearing on her finger.
Not only was the woman totally amazed by the truth of her much-loved ring, but she was also somewhat amazed at herself. After all, she’d had that ring on her finger for the best part of three decades. How could she possibly not have realized just how rare and beautiful this diamond really was? She could have done so much with it, had she known the real worth of this ring.
“They’d been to quite a few car-boot sales over the years,” Wyndham also revealed. The question remains—just how could this seasoned shopper and bargain hunter not realize she had a real diamond on her hands? The fact that she bought it for such a low price also helped sway her away from thinking it could be real. She had no idea that this piece of the jewel was a masterpiece.
It’s easy to wonder how this woman, a seasoned shopper and keen jewelry wearer, could possibly have kept that ring on her finger for 30 years and not noticed its specialness. But the truth is, there was no way that this regular woman could have noticed her ring was anything but regular. Most people do not have the expertise to judge between a real and an artificial jewel.
“They don’t have any history of collecting antiques,” explained Wyndham. “And they don’t have any history of collecting diamonds.” In these cases, you truly need an expert to reveal the truth of these things. And there was another revelation to come. The woman was completely taken aback by her purchase. She now looked at her ring from a whole new perspective.
It’s amazing to realize that we, as regular people, simply don’t have the expertise to realize that a true piece of genuine precious stone could be part of our everyday jewelry collection. And that’s not even the only reason this woman didn’t realize the truth of her very special ring. She loved the ring but had no idea about its worth. Yet she cared for it a lot as it was her favorite.
The other reason was that the ring was made in the 19th century—a time when diamonds were cut incredibly differently. So just what was so different about diamonds in those days? This was also why the ring this woman bought from the car boot sale was quite big in size. It was also different from the design of most contemporary rings, part of what attracted her.
Since this diamond ring was made in the 19th century, during this time, diamonds were cut very differently. The truth is, today we look at the value of a diamond in a very different way than people used to in the 19th century. To understand how this ring could have been created so differently, we have to look at how times have changed in the diamond business over the centuries.
Wyndham opened up about how the industry works today, explaining that, “the diamond cutter is looking to maximize the amount of brilliance from the stone because that’s what makes it sparkly.” But, we hear you ask, aren’t diamonds always sparkly? Were diamond merchants in the 19th century not interested in sparkle? Well, the way they cut diamonds back then also caused it to lose that sparkle.
It’s amazing to think that nowadays, what constitutes a valuable diamond is its brilliance and sparkle. But back in the 19th century, things were seen very differently. Wyndham explained that the priority was put on weight and size, rather than sparkliness. Wyndham revealed that back in those times, diamond cutting was “slightly duller and deeper than you would see in a modern style.”
Not only that, but she went on to say that the way it was cut “could trick people into thinking it’s not a genuine stone”. “With an old style of cutting, an antique cushion shape, the light doesn’t reflect back as much as it would from a modern stone cutting,” she said. “Cutters worked more with the natural shape of the crystal, to conserve as much weight rather than make it as brilliant as possible.”
Even though these older stones don’t quite glimmer and sparkle the way we expect our diamonds to do these days, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own sort of beauty—you just need to look at it from a different perspective. But it doesn’t make sense—why would someone cut a diamond to make it look less valuable? Well, in older times, people didn’t care about the sparkle.
“The older stones have quite a bit of personality,” Wyndham said of the diamonds cut and made back in the 19th century. “They sparkle in a different way.” It’s amazing to think that something as simple as a stylistic feature could hide this diamond’s true value. In olden times, people tended to focus on the size and design more than the sparkle of the diamond. The bigger the better.
After this amazing discovery, everyone was in shock at the true nature of this diamond ring. And so people couldn’t help but wonder, just how common was it to discover an everyday diamond is in fact a real gem? She had worn this ring just like she would wear any other artificial ring, yet she managed not to lose it or break it. Her sense of keeping jewelry is commendable.
Wyndham revealed that not only was this a very unusual occurrence, but in fact, it hardly ever happens. “This is a one-off windfall,” she said. “An amazing find. The majority of us can’t even begin to dream of owning a diamond that large.” It was sheer luck that brought the 19th-century diamond to her finger from a regular car boot sale, at that too, at such an affordable price.
Of course, after the incredible discovery of this diamond’s true nature, there was another pretty pressing question on everyone’s lips. The story of the diamond was of course amazing enough in itself, but everyone still wanted to know the true question of the mystery—just how much was this surprising mystery diamond really worth? The woman wondered the same.
And so to find out, the ring was handed over to Sotheby’s, who prepared it for auction. Once the stone would be sold under the hammer, its true worth would finally be revealed. Wyndham was so curious to find out the real price of the 19th-century ring she had been wearing on her finger for over three decades. But her wait finally came to a halt, as the price of the ring was close to being determined.
As you can imagine, everyone was waiting with bated breath to see how much this surprising piece of history could well be worth. Jessica Wyndham would of course be interested from a professional point of view, to see what sort of price such a rare find could truly fetch. She was considering selling it for a good price as she wasn’t really leading a lavish lifestyle.
But for the woman who had bought it at a car boot sale all those years ago—it could truly be a life-changing discovery. And so the question remained—just how much money was this diamond worth? Everyone involved in the incredible story of this ring was truly on tenterhooks to find out the truth of its value. Wyndham was keen to finally solve this amazing mystery, and she simply wanted to know how much money was potentially in her hands.
Though they were excited about the possibilities, no one was ready for the true amount that would shock them all. Because this modest-looking ring was estimated at around $455,000. That’s almost half a million dollars! But estimation is one thing and the actual price of something is another. So, how much did the ring end up costing? That’s a multimillion-dollar question!
In June 2017, Sotheby’s held an auction to sell this rare find and as it turns out, the ring was sold for a bit more than expected. Can you believe it! According to Sotheby’s official Twitter account, the ring was sold for a whopping £657,000. That’s more than 900 thousand US dollars! Isn’t that incredible! This woman certainly had so much money unknowingly.
Can you believe that this ring, bought at a car boot sale and worn so regularly and casually for so many years, could really secretly be worth almost a million dollars? It really makes you want to clear out your attic and look for some hidden gems, doesn’t it! This woman was wearing a fortune on her finger, unknowingly. Now she was so desperate to look after the ring.
And once she found out the price of the ring, she was desperate to visit the car boot sale again. “It’s a life-changing amount of money,” agreed Wyndham. “No matter what your background is or what your past experiences have been, it’s going to revolutionize someone’s life”. And so for the owner of the ring, just what was in store for the rest of her life? She hoped to get her hands on another item like that at the car boot sale.
Though she had undeniably been through an amazing experience, and the story of her much-loved ring’s journey and its hidden value had hit headlines across the world, this woman made an unusual choice when it came to telling her story. There was something she was considering. Read on to find out what this woman wanted to do and how she wanted to make known her story…
Though she was happy for the world to know what had happened, this woman chose to remain anonymous—letting only her story be reported on, without revealing the truth of her identity. Why would this woman not want to come forward with her name? She chose to share her story with the BBC, yet not to disclose her identity to the public. It was a choice the BBC respected.
The truth was, even though the owner of the ring was delighted by what had happened, she didn’t want her identity to be plastered all over the newspapers and have everyone know her name. This might have been because she was a little shy, or because she didn’t want to invite security risks by publicizing her sudden wealth. She wanted to maintain a low profile and that was what was done.
Either way, Wyndham revealed that the mysterious woman was truly full of joy at what had happened, saying that she was “incredibly excited as anyone would be in this position.” The decision she made not to reveal her identity to the public was a wise one, she chose to go anonymous and safe than gain popularity and invite any risks. She is a wise woman with awareness.
It’s amazing to think that this woman simply picked up what looked like a bargain-bin ring and slipped it on her finger all those years ago. When you buy a cheap piece of jewelry, what are the chances that you hang on to the item for so many years, not taking it off your finger for almost three decades? Who would have known what this lady was buying would change her life forever.
When you think about it, it’s an amazing piece of luck that she didn’t just lose this secret goldmine at some point over the years. Wyndham suggests that this was the work of “serendipity”. But in truth, there could have been another reason. Going to the car boot sale on an ordinary day and making that purchase turned out to be the best decision of the woman’s life.
Diamonds in the Rough
The truth was, even though this diamond was so old that it had been cut in a different way, it still held its own beauty when you looked at it with the right perspective. That’s because it wasn’t an artificial piece of jewel, but a real diamond. And as we all know, a diamond never loses its worth. This ring was just as special as it would have been in the 19th-century.
Yes, it didn’t have the same sparkle and shimmer like some of today’s modern diamonds, but it was still special—and maybe it just took a special person to notice its power. “A 26-carat, cushion-shaped diamond, no matter how filthy or dark that mount was, maybe that stone still speaks to people,” Wyndham mused. It was her heart that got attracted to this special item.
The story of this woman and her secretly super-valuable ring spread far and wide throughout the world. The truth is, we all like to fantasize that one of our everyday objects could end up bringing us fabulous wealth, but it’s not an everyday happening. The likelihood of running into an object dating back to the 19th-century worth millions is not something you see happening every now and then.
But as if that wasn’t enough, this now-famous car boot sale also had some other hidden gems, on that fateful day all those years ago. “They also bought some designer dresses for about £10,” Wyndham revealed. “We should have all been at the car sale!” It was a lucky day for the people who visited the car boot sale and the woman who bought the ring was one of them.
We all love to dream of one day accidentally stumbling onto great wealth or uncovering a long-hidden secret of the past. In this woman’s case, she ended up inadvertently doing both — and hitting headlines around the world. She was wearing a fortune on her finger and she was lucky enough to discover that before it was too late, as the ring could have gotten lost or whatever.
The truth was, this woman was not looking for fame, or wealth, or glory — it simply fell into her lap as she went about her everyday life. It just goes to show that for each of us, no matter what walk of life we may be in, a miracle can happen to each and every one of us. All we need to do is to keep our hearts clean and do good to those who need our help.