Sunday,19 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1211, (28 August - 3 September 2014)
Sunday,19 August, 2018
Issue 1211, (28 August - 3 September 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Mystery diamonds

A collection of precious jewels from Mohamed Ali’s family was returned to Egypt this week, writes Nevine El-Aref

Al-Ahram Weekly

This week Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Al-Damaty announced the recovery of 246 items of jewelry once owned by members of the Mohamed Ali family.

The pieces include a collection of gold palatine rings and diamond earrings, brooches, necklaces and bracelets, Al-Damaty said. One brooch was adorned with a single 40-carat stone.

Al-Damaty said the jewels were found in two separate safety deposit boxes at Bank Misr. He made the announcement at a press conference at the office of the Tourism and Antiquities Police Sunday.

The first 110 objects had been deposited as security for a loan. When loan repayments fell into arrears the Bank decided to sell the jewels at auction.

“An advertisement in Al-Ahram newspaper alerted us to the existence of the artefacts,” Major General Ahmed Abdel Zaher, head of the Antiquities Investigations Section, told reporters. The jewelry was confiscated and is now subject to an ongoing investigation. A specialist committee appointed by the minister of antiquities has already confirmed that the pieces were once part of Egypt’s royal collection.

The second cache, which includes 136 items, was recovered after a year-long investigation that was initially sparked by the circulation of photographs of some of the items of jewelry among foreign, Arab and Egyptian traders.

The recovered gems are now in the Royal Jewelry Museum in Alexandria.

The whereabouts of many of the jewels once owned by Egypt’s royal family have been a mystery since at least 1954. Then president Gamal Abdel Nasser auctioned off a number of pieces that had been confiscated during the revolution two years earlier, and deposited others at the Montaza and Ras Al-Tin Palaces in Alexandria, and the Abdin and Al-Quba palaces in Cairo.

Nabila Habib, a member of the archaeological committee that examined the jewels, says it has long been recognized that many of the pieces seen in photographs, worn by Egypt’s royal princesses, were unaccounted for, and that the items currently displayed at the Royal Jewelry Museum in Alexandria are only a fraction of the original royal collection.

Habib told Al-Ahram Weekly that when Ahmed Fouad, King Farouk’s son, visited the museum he told her the collection was far from complete.

“It is a unique collection that in its entirety provides an important insight into jewelry-making techniques and changing tastes, across the Ottoman Empire,” Habib said.

Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Modern Era Antiquities Section, said that it is unclear whether the recovered gems were among those sold at auction by Nasser or were later spirited out of the public domain. He also posited a third possibility, that some of the items may be among the jewelry female members of the Mohamed Ali family were known to have given to trusted servants when they first learned about the order to confiscate all their property.

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