24 Mayo 2017 16:54
She picked it up at a flea market 30 years ago and wore it every day, oblivious to the fact that it was a 26-carat diamond from the 19th century
Finding a bargain at a flea market is a bit like hooking up with someone at the library: your prize may not be especially spectacular, but since you went there expecting nothing, you'll probably feel pretty pleased with yourself. Later on however, when you see your new acquisition in the cold light of day, you'll soon curse your impulsiveness and start trying to figure out how to get rid of it.
And yet, sometimes flea-market miracles occur, even if our wardrobes – and the wardrobes of 99.9% of the population – show little evidence of it. Sometimes, an incredibly lucky person will find an authentic treasure at a bargain-basement price hidden away at a flea market. The secret to a buyer's success? That the seller in question is clueless as to the value of what he or she is selling.
And that is exactly what happened to a woman who bought what she thought was a piece of costume jewellery at West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, west London in 1980s. She wore the ring, which had cost her £10, almost every day for a decade... without ever imagining that it was a 26-carat diamond from the 19th century.
The diamond ring is expected to reach £350,000 when it goes on auction this June.
'The owner would wear it out shopping, wear it day-to-day,' said Jessica Wyndham, the head of the auction house's London jewellery department. 'It's a good looking ring. But it was bought as a costume jewel. No one had any idea it had any intrinsic value at all. They enjoyed it all this time.'
Ms Wyndham explained that the owner (who wishes to remain anonymous) didn't think it was a genuine gemstone because she found it among a lot of junk and it did not have the sparkle of a diamond.
'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. Cutters worked more with the natural shape of the crystal, to conserve as much weight rather than make it as brilliant as possible.'
After about 30 years of wearing the ring, the owner took it to Sotheby's after a jeweller told her it may be valuable. 'They came in with the idea that it might be real and they had no idea of its value,' Ms Wyndham said. 'We had a look and... got it tested at the Gemological Institute of America.' She added: 'The majority of us can't even begin to dream of owning a diamond that large.'