THE Government has stepped in to stop US singer Kelly Clarkson taking a ring once owned by north Hampshire author Jane Austen out of the country.

The 31-year-old American Idol winner wants to use the gold and turquoise piece of jewellery as an engagement ring after buying it at auction in July last year for £150,000.

The star, who shot to fame when she won the American Idol show in 2002, bought the jewellery at auction last year for more than £150,000, but culture minister Ed Vaizey has put a temporary export bar on the piece in a bid to keep it in the UK.

If no British buyer is found, Ms Clarkson, who is a fan of the author, may be able to have the ring exported to America.

The ring is one of only three surviving pieces of jewellery known to have belonged to the author of Pride and Prejudice, having been given to her sister Cassandra and then passed down through the family before it was sold.

Mr Vaizey said: “Jane Austen’s modest lifestyle and her early death mean that objects associated with her of any kind are extremely rare, so I hope that a UK buyer comes forward so this simple but elegant ring can be saved for the nation.”

The decision on the export licence will be deferred until September 30 and can be extended to December 30 if proof emerges of “a serious intention to raise funds” to match its six-figure price tag.

Austen, whose face will appear on £10 notes from 2017, was born in Steventon, where her father was rector, before settling at Chawton, near Alton.

Her books, which are regularly adapted for television and film, continue to sell well almost 200 years after her death at the age of 41, in 1817.