The British Museum exhibits its stolen and then recovered gems

From evil to good, said the directors of the British Museum, which is carrying out a great communication operation there. The museum will indeed exhibit a small selection among the 351 objects which returned to its collections after being stolen in August 2023. Ten engraved precious stones will be presented to the public during an exhibition entitled “Rediscovering Gems” (“Rediscover gems”), which will take place from February 15 to June 15, 2024.

The exhibition highlights the fascination with classic gemstones throughout the centuries, with the museum finding that theft has caused “a renewed interest” from the public for gems and jewelry. Mark Jones, the museum’s interim director, told the New York Times that before the theft, “it would have been difficult to generate interest in these pieces when they are extraordinary objects with a fascinating history”.

Among the salvaged objects on display are two Roman glass gems dating from the late 1st century BC to the early 1st century AD: an intaglio of a bust of Minerva in profile and a Cupid cameo. The exhibition will be completed by hundreds of other engraved pieces (which had not been stolen), at the time used as seals, worn as jewelry or simply collected as objects of beauty. A glass display case will recreate a typical 18th century gem cabinet, which will also include cast impressions, a collector’s magnifying glass and drawings.

But the majority of the 2,000 stolen items – mainly gold jewelry and precious stones stolen by a member of staff – have still not been recovered. For George Osborne, the chairman of the museum’s board of directors, however, this exhibition represents a big step forward. “We promised to show the world the jewels that were stolen and found, rather than hiding them. This is another example of the cultural shift underway at the British Museum, allowing us to open up and take ownership of our own history.”he declared in a press release.

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