A flea market ring picked up for $13 was sold for $850,000 at Sotheby’s

Larissa Harris
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Whether you’re in the search of a Boho vintage dress, a unique belt buckle, or maybe even a cute vase for your collection of trinkets, any flea market is the place to be. Everyone is looking for their own great deal. But one English lady unknowingly picked out something quite remarkable at a “car boot sale” at West Middlesex Hospital, London, in the 1980s. What she believed to be a piece of costume jewelry made the headlines 30 years later.

It was just a regular Sunday sale when the woman bought a ring she fancied for £10 ($13). She wore that ring for the next 30 years, shopping, working, running errands, until she discovered, to her astonishment, it was actually set with a 26-carat diamond that was cut in the 19th century.

At the beginning of June 2017, the “Tenner” ring went under the hammer at Sotheby’s Fine Jewels sale in London. The final bid of £656,750 ($849,740) was double it’s estimated price. According to the BBC, the woman wished to stay anonymous and as the head of Sotheby’s London jewelry department, Jessica Wyndham, said: “She wore the ring every day oblivious of its real worth.”

The stone was confirmed by the Gemological Institute of America as a genuine diamond.

The ring was placed in a bundle of low priced trinkets when she bought it. She never for a moment suspected it could be real diamond because it’s appearance wasn’t sparkly enough.

So, no one bothered to find out anything extra about this possession until one day a jeweler laid his eyes on it. Reportedly, the woman was told that the ring looks to be more valuable than a regular costume ring and the jeweler suggested she took it for further examination at Sotheby’s.

A finely shaped diamond sparkles in the light. Photo by Steve Jurvetson CC BY 2.0

At the jewelry department, Wyndham and her colleagues were quite excited by the size and unique geometric chevron design of the cushion-shaped stone. They strongly suspected that they were looking at a genuine old cut diamond, however it’s authenticity needed to be verified by a formal analysis.

Old cut diamonds were crafted by hand, working with the natural shape and alignment of the rock.

Sotheby’s passed the ring over to the Gemological Institute of America to confirm their assumption. The 26.27 carat diamond was cut in a typical 19th century style that didn’t reflect as much light as modern cut diamonds. Gems from this era have a deep and warm finish that reflect the light in a different way than the brilliantly polished surface of modern cut diamonds. The appearance of these diamonds might seem to glow rather than sparkle, but definitely shine with beauty and individuality.

Related Video: Divers Stumble Upon 2,000 ‘Priceless’ Gold Coins

“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,” Wyndham told Business Insider. “Cutters worked more with the natural shape of the crystal, to conserve as much weight rather than make it as brilliant as possible.”

Modern cut diamonds reflect the light with a captivating brilliance.

Except for the date of its origin, not much more is known about the history of the diamond ring. Wyndham explained that when a diamond is mentioned today, people mostly think of modern cuts, of brilliance, while this “flea market ring” was cut into a vintage style and its mount had darkened over time.

Rough diamond

The identity of the ring’s buyer was not revealed by Sotheby’s, however, they said that the ring did not become a new collectible of a private collector but was purchased as international trade. Tobias Kormind, a diamond expert and managing director of 77 Diamonds, predicted that the ring’s final selling price of $847,667 may be increased by cutting it as a modern diamond. He told CNN Style: “I’m convinced the $13 ring was once owned by royalty or a person of great wealth, because it originates from the 1800s — before the discovery of modern diamond mines and a time when very few diamonds were available.”

White engagement ring on the beach.

This astounding diamond find is not the first item to be regarded as run-of-the-mill that was later revealed to be a real treasure. Similarly undervalued objects have been found at flea markets around the world in the past.

Read another story from us:The advertising campaign that made the diamond industry

CNN Style tells the story of a yard sale in 2013 when a ceramic bowl was purchased for $3 but later sold for $2.2 million at an auction in New York. Also, a real Faberge egg, once owned by Tsar Alexander III, was sold as scrap metal but then sold for $33 million.