Six years ago, a British duchess despaired over the disappearance of her bag of jewelry in Glasgow Airport. No ordinary jewels, the contents of the bag included a Victorian diamond tiara and totaled $157,000 (£100,000).
She reported the missing items to the police and to the Art Loss Register (ALR), and as the years passed, her hope of recovering them dimmed. But she was surprised when she spotted the tiara and a Cartier brooch in a Scottish auction catalog, slated to be sold on May 30.
As it turned out, rather than informing police, when the airport found the jewels it simply sold them to a Glasgow diamond trader for less than $7,500 and donated the proceeds to charity – its standard practice for lost items unclaimed within three months, spokeswoman Sharon Morrison said.
After the duchess informed the London-based ALR of the impending sale, lawyer Christopher Marinello contacted the auction house, Lyon & Turnbull, to negotiate the jewels' return to their rightful owner.
"I'm absolutely amazed," the Duchess of Argyll, 68, said in a statement. "I thought that after six years I'd lost them forever. [The jewels] were absolutely irreplaceable, so I'm incredibly delighted. The tiara was a Victorian family one and the necklace was given to me for my 21st birthday. So everything was very special. When I spotted the brooch, I couldn't believe it."
The duchess has since been reunited with her tiara, brooch and pearl necklace, but her pearl earrings and emerald ring are still missing. Marinello said the airport sold the ring off, but there is no evidence of the earrings ever surfacing.
Marinello said the airport should have thought to contact the duchess, since the loss of her tiara made British headlines in 2006.
"How many tiaras turn up in an airport?" he said.
The British Airport Authority has no records left from the incident, Morrison said, but it has compensated the unlucky diamond trader, and in 2007, Glasgow airport overhauled its lost-property procedures.
"This would not happen again today," she said.