Some of the 2,000 valuable antiques believed to have been stolen from the British Museum’s archives over the years have been recovered. This was stated to the BBC by the president of the prestigious London institution, George Osborne, the day after the resignation of the director of the museum, Hartwig Fischer. The alarm was raised in 2021 when a famous antique dealer, Ittai Gradel, reported seeing parts of antique jewelry sold on eBay.
The stolen items
It is estimated that the value of the stolen works reaches up to 80 million pounds and it is mainly jewels, gold jewels and semi-precious stones. They were not on public display but were part of the vast collection in the museum’s repositories, accessible to scholars and academics. Objects in the British Museum’s possession are scrupulously catalogued, Osborne explains, and it is therefore likely that the thieves were also familiar with the uncatalogued objects. It is feared that many of the stolen valuables have been disassembled, damaged or melted down.
The words of the President of the Museum
“We believe we are victims of thefts which have continued over a long period of time and, in all fairness, I think a lot more could have been done to prevent this from happening,” Osborne added. Asked where the objects recovered so far from the museum have been found, Osborne limited himself to saying that “several active members of the antiquarian community are collaborating with us”, and that the recoveries are “the positive side of this story”. Osborne said he was confident “honest people” would return items if they realized they were stolen, knowing that other people “won’t”.