Page last updated at 15:06 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 16:06 UK

Jane Austen's hair up for auction

The curio that may contain Jane Austen's hair
The item was found in an antiques shop more than 20 years ago

A curio containing hair believed to have come from the author Jane Austen is expected to fetch 5,000 at auction.

The unusual item shows a lock of fine brown hair which has been made into a weeping willow with its branches shading Jane Austen's gravestone.

Dominic Winter Auction House's cataloguing team thinks the truth of whether it really is Ms Austen's hair may never be known.

The crafting of hair into lockets and brooches was common in Victorian times.

DNA technology

It is well-documented that Jane's sister Cassandra Austen cut off several locks of hair as mementoes, before her sister's coffin was finally closed.

Nobody knows what happened to them, but one theory is that they were given to one of her six brothers and made into decorative items.

Dominic Winter of the auction house said: "The best suggestion is her brother Edward but this is speculation and the truth may never be known, as all we know is that the owner unearthed it in an antiques shop in Worcestershire over 20 years ago."

Auctioneer Chris Albury said: "There is new DNA technology available (which would identify who the hair belonged to) but this has proved too expensive."

The lock of hair will go under the hammer on 18 June at the auction house in Cirencester.

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