You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Oscar Wilde ring 'stolen in Hatton Garden heist' found by art detective

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 16/11/2019 Brendan McFadden
a close up of a man wearing glasses: Dutch art detective Arthur Brand with the ring he believes was stolen in the Hatton Garden jewellery heist - AFP © John Thys/AFP Dutch art detective Arthur Brand with the ring he believes was stolen in the Hatton Garden jewellery heist - AFP

A golden ring Oscar Wilde gave to a friend has been found 20 years after it was stolen by an art detective who believes it was part of the loot taken in the Hatton Garden jewellery heist.

The 18-carat friendship ring, which is shaped like a belt and buckle, was stolen in a burglary from Oxford University and was a joint gift from the famed Irish writer to a fellow student in 1876.

The whereabouts of the ring, valued at £35,000 when it was stolen, remained a mystery for years and rumours circulated that it had been melted down.

Items valued up to £200 million are believed to have been stolen in the 2015 Hatton Garden heist, which was planned and carried out by six elderly experienced thieves, who were jailed in March 2016.

In 2015, just weeks after the raid, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand, heard rumours that a Victorian ring had surfaced on the art market 'with some Russian writing on it'," and decided to investigate.

a close up of a coffee cup: The 18-carat friendship ring, which is shaped like a belt and buckle, was stolen in a burglary from Oxford University © John Thys/AFP The 18-carat friendship ring, which is shaped like a belt and buckle, was stolen in a burglary from Oxford University

Mr Brand tracked it down with the help of London-based antiques dealer William Veres and George Crump, a man whom Brand says has a "decent knowledge of the London criminal underworld".

When the art detective heard rumours about the ring, he spoke to Mr Veres, who put him in touch with Mr Crump, who is said to have links to infamous London gangsters, the Kray twins, who were jailed in the 1960s.

With the help of a mediator, Mr Crump discovered the ring had been bought in 2015 and tracked down the buyer - who is said to have been horrified when they were told the ring was stolen.

The buyer offered to return the ring and the mediator met Mr Brand to give it to him outside the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company, last month.

In pictures: This week’s top photos from around the world [The Atlantic]

Mr Brand, who is dubbed the "Indiana Jones of the Art World" for recovering a series of high-profile stolen artworks, said: "There are very strong indications that the appearance of the ring is linked to the 2015 burglary at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit.

"Rumours that the ring has reappeared first started a few weeks after the burglary. I was not surprised that the ring resurfaced because of the robbery.

"We heard these rumours a few weeks after the robbery. We heard very strong rumours it was linked to this theft.

"When it was stolen nobody knew it was Oscar Wilde's ring, these items were sold around the world.

"It ended up in the hands of a person who nearly had a heart attack when they realised it was Oscar Wilde's ring. They had bought it just as a Victorian buckle ring with a Russian inscription.

"And I was given the ring right in front of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit... which I thought was a bit of English humour."

The ring will be officially handed back to the university in an official ceremony on Dec 4.

It was an important part of Magdalen College's large collection of memorabilia relating to Wilde, author of classics such as 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.

Mark Blandford-Baker, home bursar of the university's Magdalen College, said he was "very pleased to have back a stolen item that forms part of a collection relating to one of our more famous alumni."

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Telegraph

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon