Oscar Wilde's stolen friendship ring returned to Magdalen College

Oscar Wilde ring and letter
Image caption Oscar Wilde gave the ring to his friend William Ward in 1876

A ring Oscar Wilde once gifted to a friend has been returned to an Oxford University college 17 years after it was stolen.

The 18-carat gold friendship ring was taken from Magdalen College in 2002 and tracked down by Dutch art detective Arthur Brand.

Wilde was a student at the college and gave the ring to William Ward in 1876.

Prof Sir David Clary, president of Magdalen, said he was "delighted" the ring had come home.

Mr Brand, who was unable to attend the presentation, procured it with the help of commodity broker George Crump, who had "knowledge of the London criminal underworld", The Telegraph reported.

The art detective previously said there were "very strong indications" the ring was taken in the Hatton Garden jewellery raid in 2015.

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

"It ended up in the hands of a person who nearly had a heart attack when they realised it was Oscar Wilde's ring."

Image caption The ring was returned to Magdalen College by commodity broker George Crump (right)

Mr Crump explained to the BBC that he "got the word out" about the ring among his contacts.

"I didn't think it would come back - it was impossible - and basically, lo and behold, A went to B, to C, to D, down the line," he said.

"It was recovered in Hatton Garden which was an unbelievable moment.

"I was absolutely astonished. A small thing like that that could have been chucked away and lost forever. A needle in a haystack."

Image caption Magdalen president Professor Sir David Clary 'could hardly believe' the ring had been found

College bursar Mark Blandford-Baker said: "We'd long given it up as having been melted down".

Sir David said: "We thought it had disappeared, so it was a surprise when we heard it had been found.

"We could hardly believe it.... We're very grateful to everyone who helped bring the ring back."

The college said it believes the ring originally came into its possession when letters written by Ward were donated to it at the end of the 19th Century.

Image copyright Library of Congress
Image caption Playwright, poet and author Oscar Wilde was a student at the college

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