She gave the woman an incredulous look and wondered if she’d heard correctly. Could the appraiser have been mistaken?
She had never been in a situation like this before and guessed the appraiser was just as startled. She was at a loss for words, but she didn’t know that what she would be told next would change her life forever.
An anonymous woman from London was walking through the Middlesex Hospital flea market west of the city. She walked the same route every week but enjoyed looking at the stands as she passed. She didn’t have much to spend but wanted to buy something worthwhile.
She spotted a lovely necklace that one of the stands had on display, but something much grander caught her eye. She felt pulled towards the ring and picked it up to adore it closely.
The woman requested that she remained anonymous after telling her story but shared that she had been after something that said “luxury.” As she looked at it, she was convinced that she couldn’t afford it. But that didn’t mean she didn’t want it and itched to purchase it.
She spent several moments examining the ring and felt a strange connection to it. But she couldn’t help feeling that something was off either.
The ring was mounted to a large surface but did nothing to take away from the large crystal on top of it. The woman couldn’t help feeling like she had found something from a fairy tale and would do anything to get her hands on it.
There was more reason behind her wanting to purchase the piece of jewelry. Along with finding it beautiful, she wanted it as a reminder that she could buy herself a real diamond one day if she put the work in. But she had no idea how much her life was about to change.
After her last purchase, she had £10 ($13) and decided to spend it on the stunning piece. She loved the ring so much that she wore it daily, no matter where she went. She spent years with the talisman on her finger.
She hadn’t grown up with much when she was younger and didn’t need much now that she was older. But that made the jewelry piece that much more precious to her. She held onto it for 30 years and felt like a princess every time she put it on. But a trip to the grocery store would have life-altering consequences.
The Londoner needed to stop by the grocery store after work one day. It didn’t take long for her to find what she needed, and she soon stood in line, waiting to pay for her goods.
She noticed someone looking at her while she stood in line and turned to find their eyes glued to her hand. She thought it odd but shrugged it off, considering that the stranger found her ring as pretty as she did. But the strange man wasn’t about to let her go so soon.
The man’s eyes were glued to her ring, so much so that she wanted to leave. She was grateful when it was her turn and quickly paid for her items. But she still felt the man’s eyes on her as she walked to the exit.
She grew paranoid and wondered what he wanted with her. Her worst fears came to mind when she noticed that he was following her. She wondered what she could do to shake him off her trail.
She quickened her pace when she spotted her car, but she still heard the man’s approaching footsteps behind her. She walked through a crowd and hoped to lose him, but she caught sight of him in her peripheral vision seconds later.
She wondered if she imagined things, but the thought was squashed when she felt him stepping up behind her. What did he want from her? She readied herself to tell him to back off, but then he said something that had the words get stuck in her throat.
The stranger told her he needed to say something about her costume jewelry. Once he spotted it, he needed to ask her something she would never have expected.
There was no hiding the panic she felt, and she watched his greedy eyes return to the ring. “Would you mind if I take a closer look at your ring?” he asked.
She felt overwhelmed being approached by a stranger like that and at risk of danger. She did her best to brush him off and rushed toward her car, hoping to be rid of him finally.
He yelled to her as she walked away and asked where she had gotten the ring. She ignored him and focused her thoughts on getting home safely. But later, she caught herself thinking of the strange man.
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 to wake up and immediately 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 onto the strap above her to steady her balance, she noticed her mistake.
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 at the next stop and headed straight back to her house. “I can’t believe I left it at home,” she thought angrily – even after she had been 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 had been parked right in front of her driveway. She felt immense pressure in her chest and immediately ran through her front door.
As she gasped for air in her entranceway and looked back at the door, she realized that she had run through it with such force that 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. But what she found made her blood boil even more.
She climbed the stairs two-by-two and 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. With her eyes widening and her breaths ragged, she turned her bedroom upside down. She could not find her precious costume ring, but then something jogged her memory.
She retraced her steps that morning. As she entered her bathroom, there it was. The ring sat next to the sink, sparkling 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.
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? 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 the ring had belonged to someone famous. The ring was obviously old, the silver mounting and band had tarnished, and there was a lot of dirt on it — but what secrets was it hiding?
After a couple of anxious days waiting for the news from the auction house, she would finally find out the mind-bending truth.
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.
When Sotheby’s Jewelry in London confirmed the stone’s authenticity, nobody could believe it. 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?
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 all the way back 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.”
“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,” Jessica Wyndham explained further.
“Cutters worked to conserve as much weight rather than make it as brilliant as possible,” she said. So, because the stone was duller than you’d expect for a genuine diamond, nobody had been the wiser.
The antique shape, tarnished mount and band, and older style had disguised the ring’s true brilliance for all those years.
Jessica Wyndham also went on to explain why 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,” she said. “It’s a life-changing amount of money,”
Speaking about why the lucky London woman had no idea what she had, Jessica Wyndham told more details to the BBC.
“They’d been to quite a few car-boot sales over the years. But they don’t have any history of collecting antiques and they don’t have any history of collecting diamonds. This is a one-off windfall, an amazing find.”
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.
Although the diamond appeared dull, the lucky London woman 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 lived life from paycheck to paycheck, another person’s junk was her treasure – and it was about to change her world.
The ring was sent to auction and got sold for a staggering amount: £656,750 ($847,667). The woman’s life would never be the same.
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 some diamonds have fetched even more eye-watering amounts at auction.
On the 18th of May 2016, a 14.62-carat diamond, the Oppenheimer Blue, sold for the world record-breaking amount of $58 million at auction.
Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery, was present at the auction held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva and said that the bidding war lasted well over 20 minutes. But one diamond fetched even more than that.
The Pink Star diamond smashed the record held by the Oppenheimer Blue when it sold for an unbelievable $71.2 million in 2017.
The 59.60-carat diamond is the largest internally flawed ‘fancy vivid pink’ diamond ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America. Additionally, the Pink Star also holds the record for the highest price item ever sold at auction in Asia.
While the London woman had unbelievable luck that day when she bought the ring for $30 in the flea market, many people have found rare and valuable antiques in the strangest places.
Next time you spot something cheap in a flea market and get a gut feeling about it, you shouldn’t hesitate to purchase it. Who knows… maybe you’ll be the next lucky one.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.