Amsterdam: 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 friendship 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 pounds (40,650 euros, $45,000).
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. But 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. Mark Blandford-Baker, home bursar of Magdalen College, said 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 told AFP.
The ring will be handed back “at a small ceremony” on December 4, said Blandford-Baker, 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 the initials of: “OF OF WW + RRH to WWW” on the inside.