LONDON, Feb. 2 – In August 2023, revelations of approximately 2000 missing, stolen, or damaged objects from the British Museum’s collection, predominantly classical gems and gold jewellery, sparked renewed public intrigue about these artefacts.
Today, the British Museum unveils a new exhibition delving into the significance of classical gems and their enduring impact throughout history. Regarded as portals to the ancient Mediterranean world, these gems served as seals, adorned jewellery, and were admired as objects of beauty in their own right.
Titled “Rediscovering Gems,” the exhibit will explore these coveted masterpieces, whose intricate designs offer a glimpse into personal tastes and aesthetic preferences across epochs. Popular during Europe’s 18th century, visitors will encounter these gems showcased in a period-appropriate gem cabinet alongside collector’s paraphernalia like magnifying glasses, cast impressions, and drawings.
Among the stolen and recently recovered items featured are two Roman glass gems dating from the late 1st century BC to early 1st century AD: an intaglio featuring a profile bust of Minerva and a cameo displaying a bust of Cupid.
In response to the theft, the Museum launched a recovery program, leading to the return of hundreds of items through collaborative efforts with dealers and the public. The British Museum remains committed to recovering all stolen items and preventing future thefts, collaborating with the Metropolitan Police Service and international experts in gems and art loss recovery.
George Osborne, Chair of the Board of Trustees, emphasised the Museum’s commitment to transparency, stating, “We promised we’d show the world the gems that were stolen and recovered – rather than hide them away. It’s another example of culture change underway at the British Museum, as we open up and take ownership of our own story.”
Tom Harrison, Keeper of the Department of Greece and Rome, expressed gratitude for the support received in the recovery program and highlighted the exhibition’s opportunity to shed light on this underappreciated art form.
The British Museum is one of the world’s most renowned and oldest museums in London. Founded in 1753, it holds a vast collection of art and artefacts from various cultures and historical periods, making it a significant institution for studying and appreciating human history, culture, and art.
The museum’s collection spans various disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology, art history, and more. Some of the most notable aspects of the British Museum include:
Ancient Artifacts: The museum houses an extensive collection of ancient artefacts from worldwide civilisations. This includes items from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and other cultures. The Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles (also known as the Parthenon Sculptures), and the Egyptian mummies are among its most famous pieces.
Cultural Artifacts: The museum features objects representing diverse cultures and periods, including items from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania. These artefacts provide insights into various societies’ traditions, beliefs, and daily lives.
Prints and Drawings: The British Museum has an impressive collection of prints, drawings, and manuscripts, including works by famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt.
Library and Research: Besides its physical collections, the British Museum has a library that contains a vast array of books, manuscripts, and documents, making it an essential resource for researchers and scholars.
Temporary Exhibitions: The museum hosts temporary exhibitions focusing on specific themes, periods, or artists. These exhibitions often combine pieces from various parts of the collection to create new narratives and contexts.
Learning and Outreach: The British Museum offers educational programs, lectures, workshops, and events to engage visitors of all ages and backgrounds. It’s also known for its digital initiatives that allow people to explore the collection online.
The British Museum’s location in the heart of London and its iconic architecture contribute to its status as a cultural landmark. Visiting the museum’s permanent collections is free, though there might be charges for special exhibitions. The British Museum is crucial in promoting cultural understanding, historical appreciation, and global heritage through its diverse collection and educational initiatives.
“Rediscovering Gems” will be open for free viewing in Room 3 from February 15 to June 15, 2024. For more information. Please visit
Top Photo © Artlyst 2024