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British Museum’s ‘Rediscovering Gems’ to showcase stolen jewels

LONDON (AFP): The British Museum announced that a selection of items, previously stolen from its extensive collection and subsequently recovered, will be featured in an upcoming exhibition.

The museum, one of London’s biggest tourist draws, announced last August that some 2,000 items were believed to have been taken by a former employee.

Hundreds have since been recovered, including 10 ancient gems that will be on show at the “Rediscovering Gems,” which opens on Feb. 15.

Two are Roman glass gems dating from the late first century B.C. to the A.D. first century.

The museum, home to the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles, said it was “committed to recovering all the stolen items” and preventing a repeat.

George Osborne, chairperson of the British Museum board of trustees, said the exhibition, which runs until June 15, was a sign of the “culture change” at the institution.

“We promised we’d show the world the gems that were stolen and recovered – rather than hide them away,” the former finance minister added.

A police investigation was launched to locate and return the remaining missing items and has drafted in international experts.

The museum, founded in 1753, has also set up a webpage giving details of the losses and information about how to report them.

An unnamed member of staff was sacked after the thefts were disclosed, while museum director Hartwig Fischer stepped down.

The thefts were the latest controversy to hit the institution: In recent years it has come under pressure to return artifacts acquired during the era of the British Empire.

The museum has not specified how many items have been stolen or detailed what the missing items are, saying only that were “small pieces” including “gold jewelry and gems of semi-precious stones and glass dating from the 15th century B.C. to the A.D. 19th century.”

The number of the stolen items is now believed to be “well over 1,000? and “closer to 2,000,” with a value running into “millions of pounds,” the Daily Telegraph reported in August.