She looked at the woman, and couldn't believe what just had been said. She thought the appraiser had probably made a mistake. The woman had never been in a situation like that and suspected that neither did the appraiser. She had no idea where to turn, but what she was told next made her instant royalty.
Petticoat Lane Market
An unidentified Londoner was on her weekly stroll of the Middlesex Hospital flea market (west of the city) gliding past different stands. Everything looked pretty old and worn out, and with only a couple of bucks in her pocket, she wanted her purchase to be worth every penny. As she was eyeing a necklace on one of the stands she couldn’t help but notice a huge ring sparkle in the corner of her eye, she turned to the ring and knew that fate had brought her to it.
ITV / Sotheby's
The woman, who remains anonymous as per request, wanted to get herself something beautiful and luxurious. While she knew it looked like something she could never afford, she wanted it because it meant more to her than just some pile of junk. She picked up the ring and looked at it for a moment as it resonated with her, but something seemed off. Nevertheless, she felt inexplicably drawn to it.
ITV / Sotheby's
The ring sat on a mount that was of incredible size, the crystal too. The whole piece looked like jewelry from a fairy-tale, and the woman knew that she had to have it. A piece of jewelry that not only she loved with all her heart but would serve as a talisman to remind herself that one day, if she worked hard enough, she would buy a real diamond. Little did she know that everything was about to change.
Petticoat Lane Market
She completed her purchase and spent her last remaining £10 ($13) on the incredible piece. From then on she wore the ring every day, everywhere. Years passed, and her talisman was still by her side. Being of humble backgrounds she didn’t need much else, so she kept this piece close to her; it made her feel like a princess, even 30 years later. But one day, a strange trip to the grocery store turned her life upside down.
WFLA / News
On a beautiful afternoon, on her way home from work, the Londoner stopped at a nearby grocery store. She grabbed all the stuff she needed and headed to the check-out line. While waiting, she could not help but notice a stranger ogling at her hand. She thought this was very peculiar but she brushed off her train of thought and continued waiting for her turn. What she didn’t know was that the stranger, a mysterious man, was not going to let her out of his sight.
The man wouldn’t stop gazing at her ring, and the woman was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Her turn finally came up, and she quickly paid for her products and headed for the door, still noticing the gaze of the man following her every move. She quickly became suspicious and feared for the worst. And that's when she noticed that he was still following her. What did this man want? And how could she get rid of him?
Twitter / DailyLONDON
The woman quickly walked toward her car, aware that the man was still trailing her. She tried to keep him in her peripheral vision as she tried to lose him in the crowd, but he seemed unshakeable. She wondered what he wanted from her... or was she just being paranoid? Then, the gap between her and him closed and she felt him right behind her. She spun around to confront him, and then he said something that completely blindsided her.
Medical News Today
The mystery man had followed her because something about her costume jewelry had caught his eye. And then he asked her something that left her questioning everything. Seeing the panic on her face, and with his greedy eyes never leaving her hand, he quickly asked her if she minded giving him closer look at her ring. Not appreciating being approached so brazenly by a stranger and suspecting a scam, she rudely brushed him off and hurried away. As she turned to leave, she heard the man yell "...it doesn't belong to you!" But she just wanted to get home, so she didn't give the strange encounter another thought... until later.
The woman always had her talisman by her side, but one day she was in such a hurry that she forgot to put it on. It had become a ritual for her; wake up and put the ring on her finger. But that day, she was frazzled. She was going to be late, and as she hurried to get dressed and out the door, the ring was not on her finger. She didn’t think much of it, but as she hopped on the subway and her hand held on to the pole in front of her to steady her balance, fear pulsed through her body with such force she thought she was having an anxiety attack. She needed to do something, but whatever she did, she needed to do it fast.
The ring was so incredibly valuable to her that she got off on the next stop and headed back to her house. “I can’t believe I left it at home,” she thought, and more so, after being so paranoid about the man at the grocery store. As she rounded the corner to her house, dread engulfed her. She saw a car speed away which seemed like it was parked right in front of her drive. She felt immense pressure in her chest and immediately ran through her front door. As she gasped for air in her entrance she looked back at the door; she had run through it with such force she didn’t even think twice about the fact that it was unlocked. That was it, her talisman was gone, and now she would never know the real value it had. Still, she needed to check to make sure and what she found made her blood boil even more.
As she climbed the stairs two-by-two, she started in her bedroom. Her initial thought was to look for the ring where she had always kept it. Nothing. It was not there. She knew she should have been more careful, something was off about that man and her gut feeling told her so too. Eyed widening, breaths ragged and harsh, she turned her bedroom upside down. She could not find her precious costume ring, but then something jogged her memory. As she entered her bathroom, there it was. The ring stood massively next to the sink in all of its glory. She had put it there to remind herself to put it back on after brushing her teeth but didn’t. She couldn’t live with his anxiety; she had to do something.
Sotheby's / CDN
She was struggling to pay her bills, that was no secret. All she could think about was the strange man who had an uncanny interest in her ring. He seemed to think her ‘crystal ring’ might be of some value. Who had it belonged to? she thought. The encounter with the man had been enough for her to take the ring to Sotheby’s London -- maybe they could answer her questions and relieve her anxiety. She wondered, longingly, if it had belonged to someone famous. The ring was old, the silver had tarnished, and there was a lot of dirt on it -- but what secrets was it hiding? A couple of anxious days later, she would finally know the mind-bending truth.
JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP / Sotheby's
The suspense was killing her and, suddenly, a sense of dread came over her. What if she had given her prize possession to them and never saw it again? What if all of this was a scam devised by the mysterious man who coveted it? Sotheby's said they had to keep it for a couple of days to run some tests on the stone, and her heart plummeted. Then, Sotheby’s Jewelry in London confirmed the stone’s authenticity: It turned out that her ring was a giant, 26-carat cushion-shaped white diamond from the 19th Century. The Londoner couldn’t believe it... surely they had made a mistake? How could she have been wearing a ring of such value all this time?
Sotheby's / CDN
Sotheby’s had all the answers. Jessica Wyndham, who heads the auction house’s jewelry department explained that a ring of such value was probably owned by someone in the royal family in the 19th century and because the diamond cutting was "slightly duller and deeper" than nowadays "it could trick people into thinking it's not a genuine stone."
ITV News / Jessica Wyndham
"With an old style of cutting, an antique cushion shape, the light doesn't reflect as much as it would from a modern stone cutting. Cutters worked to conserve as much weight rather than make it as brilliant as possible." The antique shape and older style had disguised its true brilliance for all those years. They also went on to explain while they took so long to get it authenticated and valued - “We confirmed that it was indeed a diamond. We got it tested with the Gemological Institute of America ... and that then dictated the price,” said Jessica Wyndham.
Jessica Wyndham / Sotheby's
Jessica Wyndham told the unidentified woman that the ring could go for as much as £350,000 (about $450,000) if it were auctioned. The head of the auction house continued to explain the cut of the stone probably would have meant that it didn’t sparkle, plus it was all dirty, no one would really think it was real. “They came in with the idea that it might be real, and they had no idea of its value,” Wyndham added.
Twitter / Sotheby's
The Londoner knew when she was standing at the flea market that the ring sparkled. That is what caught her attention, but maybe, her talisman only shone for her. Having lead a life from paycheck to paycheck, another person’s junk was her treasure and had just changed her life. The ring was sent to auction and got sold for a staggering amount: £656,750 ($847,667). Not only did this great little possession’s auction make her life a whole lot easier, but she finally knew that she had been a princess all along. But how do you know if your costume jewelry is valuable?