Not even J.R.R. Tolkien could dream up rings as precious as these.

A former Salvation Army bell ringer is paying $21,000 for a diamond engagement ring and wedding band that a widow placed inside a red donation kettle in Boston. A note accompanying the rings asked that the jewelry be sold and the proceeds used to buy toys for poor children.

This heartwarming Christmas story gets even better: The anonymous woman redeeming the rings is also a widow, and she wants to return them to the woman who originally donated them.

"I want to be involved in this because it's about the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving," the buyer told the Salvation Army, which announced the rings' sale Monday. "My wish is that the rings can be returned to this woman who gave them up in memory of her husband for the sake of children at Christmas."

The fellowship of these rings began earlier this month, when the charity emptied one of its trademark kettles outside Boston's North Station and found the rings wrapped inside a letter.

The widow who gave them recalled her late husband as an especially giving soul, especially during the holidays, and said she was donating her rings in his memory.

"I'm hoping there's someone out there who made lots of money this year and will buy the ring for 10 times its worth. After all, there's no price on love or the sentimental value of this ring. But money will help the kids," her note read.

Massachusetts Salvation Army Major David Davis said the diamond ring alone was valued at $1,850. In keeping with the donor's wish, the organization spread the word, and Davis said the rings got multiple offers.

"One expression of love has inspired another grand gesture to help those in need during the holiday season," he said. "Because of these two amazing individuals, our Salvation Army officers, staff and individuals will be able to extend our outreach to the many families and children in need. We are dedicated to fulfilling the sentiment behind these two heartfelt donations."

In the end, the winning bidder offered more than 10 times the rings' worth. The woman, identified only as a former Salvation Army volunteer, told the charity she was inspired in part because she, too, lost a beloved husband.

"I miss him dearly, but my husband would be happy that I am doing this," she said.

The Salvation Army doesn't know who the original donor is but hopes she'll come forward, spokesman Drew Forster said.

"We're hoping this incredibly generous person reaches out so we can set up a very quiet meeting" to return the rings, he said.