A golden ring once given as a present by the famed Irish writer Oscar Wilde has been recovered by a Dutch “art detective” nearly 20 years after it was stolen from Britain’s Oxford University.
The frie ndship ring, a joint gift from Wilde to a fellow student in 1876, was taken during a burglary in 2002 at Magdalen College, where the legendary dandy studied. At the time it was valued at ￡35,000 (US$45,143).
The trinket’s whereabouts remained a mystery for years and there were fears that the ring — shaped like a belt and buckle and made from 18-carat gold — had even been melted down.
Yet Arthur Brand, a Dutchman dubbed the “Indiana Jones of the Art World” for recovering a series of high-profile stolen artworks, used his underworld connections to finally find it.
Magdalen College home bursar Mark Blandford-Baker said that they were “very pleased to have back a stolen item that forms part of a collection relating to one of our more famous alumni.”
“We had given up hope of seeing it again,” he said.
The ring will be handed back “at a small ceremony” on Dec. 4, Blandford-Baker said, adding: “We are extremely grateful to Arthur Brand for finding it and returning it to us.”
The ring was an important part of Magdalen’s large collection of memorabilia related to Wilde, who penned classics such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.
It was a present from Wilde and fellow student Reginald Harding to their friend William Ward in 1876 while the Irishman was a student at Magdalen, one of the three dozen colleges that make up Oxford University.
The ring bears the inscription in Greek that says: “Gift of love, to one who wishes love.” It also has “O.F.O.F.W.W. + R.R.H. to W.W.W.” written on the inside.
Disaster struck in 2002 when a former college cleaner named Eamonn Andrews broke into Magdalen, got drunk on whisky from the college bar, then stole the ring and two unrelated medals.
The college at the time offered a ￡3,500 reward for the ring’s safe return — but after he was caught, the burglar told a court that he had sold the golden band to a scrap dealer for ￡150.
That might have been that, had Brand not picked up the scent a few years back.
“Rumors started in 2015 in the art underworld that a Victorian ring has surfaced ‘with some Russian writing on it,’” Brand told a correspondent, who saw the ring at an apartment in Amsterdam.
“I knew that Oscar Wilde’s ring was stolen from Magdalen College at Oxford and that it had a Greek inscription on it. It could have only been the same ring,” he said.
The Dutchman then started to put out feelers. Together with a London-based antiques dealer named William Veres, their inquiries eventually led them to George Crump, a man whom Brand described as a “decent man with knowledge of the London criminal underworld because of his late uncle, a well-known casino owner.”
Through Crump, Brand and Veres finally managed to track down and negotiate the safe return of the stolen ring.
Brand has previously hit the headlines for returning stolen artworks including a Picasso painting stolen from yacht in France, and Hitler’s Horses, two bronze statues made by Nazi sculptor Joseph Thorak.
The story of this latest find could have a final twist worthy of one of Wilde’s tales.
Wilde’s ring might have never been discovered were it not for another heist, when a gang of elderly criminals raided a vault in London’s jewelry district in 2015 in what was described as the “biggest burglary in English legal history.”
“There are very strong indications that the appearance of the ring is linked to the 2015 burglary at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit,” Brand said.
“Rumors that the ring has reappeared first started a few weeks after the burglary, and I was given the ring right in front of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit ... which I thought was a bit of English humor,” he said.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory