Translucent burgundy engraved intaglio set into a pale gold ring - the glass intaglio is damaged and missing most of the bottom half, revealing the interior of the ring socket which is lightly scratched.

Recovery of missing items

What can you do to help?

If you are concerned that you may be, or have been, in possession of items from the British Museum, or if you have any other information that may help us, please email us at recovery@britishmuseum.org

For more general enquiries please email us at info@britishmuseum.org or call (0)20 7323 8000.

On 16 August 2023, the Museum announced that a number of items of jewellery from the collection had been found to be stolen, missing or damaged, and that this was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service.

The Museum also spoke of its determination to recover the items. This webpage gives details of the losses, describes some of the things that we are doing to recover the items, and says what you can do to help. 

What is missing?

On the advice of recovery specialists, we are not sharing full details of the lost and damaged items at this time. What we can share is the type of material that we believe has been stolen.

The vast majority of the items are from the Department of Greece and Rome and mainly fall into two categories: gems and jewellery. The items illustrated here are similar to those that are missing, but are still in the collection.

Classical Greek and Roman gems
Gems, cameos or intaglios are small objects, often set in rings or other settings, or left unmounted and unfinished. They may be made of semi-precious stone (for example sard, sardonyx, amethyst) or glass; they may be cast from a mould or engraved by hand. The majority of gems are from the Hellenistic and Roman world, but some may also have been made in modern times in imitation of ancient gems. They may feature images of famous individuals from the Classical past, of mythological scenes, animals or objects. These gems are of varied quality. Some will be fragmentary and damaged.

Gold rings, ear-rings and other pieces of jewellery
These date from across antiquity, especially from the Late Bronze Age (about 15th to 11th century BC) and the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Other items
While the majority of the items are gems and jewellery, our investigations suggest that there are also a number of other types of materials amongst the missing objects – such as small sculptural fragments and Greek pottery.

What are we doing to recover lost items?

The actions we are taking include: 

  1. We have registered missing items with the Art Loss Register.
  2. We have established an international panel of specialists, including leading figures in the study of gems and jewellery, who will offer their expertise to assist us in identifying and retrieving the lost items.
  3. We are actively monitoring the art market. 
  4. We are continuing to work in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service. 
  5. Finally, we have established an email hotline for anyone with information that might aid the recovery programme: recovery@britishmuseum.org

What is the latest progress?

Thanks to the steps above, we have now recovered 356 items – and have identified more than 300 others. The gallery below contains 10 of these recovered items, which will be on display for free in Room 3. Rediscovering gems will explore the significance of classical gems and the impression they have left throughout history. 

We remain committed to retrieving as many items as possible.

In the coming months, we expect to issue further updates on the progress of our recovery programme. These updates will include information on the material that we have recovered and recognition of the many people offering us help. 

What can you do to help?

If you are concerned that you may be, or have been, in possession of items from the British Museum, or if you have any other information that may help us, please contact us at recovery@britishmuseum.org

For more general enquiries please email us at info@britishmuseum.org or call (0)20 7323 8000.