Egyptian royal jewels found stashed in bank vault

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The 246-piece collection made for the Mohamed Ali dynasty, including a 44-carat diamond, will soon go on view in Alexandria

A butterfly brooch from the collection. Photo: Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism

Egyptian authorities have confiscated 246 pieces of jewellery from the Mohamed Ali dynasty, named after the late 19th-century Ottoman ruler who is recognised as having brought the country into the Modern era. The ornate pieces, which include a 44-carat diamond and a platinum brooch inlaid with diamonds, will soon be put on display at the Royal Jewellery Museum in Alexandria.

The items had been in the possession of an attendant to King Farouk, who abdicated in 1952 following the military coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. She had stored the collection in a safe deposit box at the Egyptian Bank (Banque Misr), where it remained after her death, technically in the possession of her husband, who later reportedly offered the objects to antique dealers.

Last year, Egyptian authorities were granted a warrant to investigate the contents of the safe deposit box, enabling them to identify the jewellery as pieces produced for the royal family, inscribed with dates and artists’ names. Since the royal family’s possessions were nationalised after the 1952 revolution, and there is no proof showing how the attendant received the collection, the Tourism and Antiquities Police Department subsequently confiscated the jewels, arguing that they belonged to the State.

Meanwhile, 98 artefacts also created for the royal family have been seized at the Delta city of Damietta. The objects, including lanterns and elaborate columns, were hidden in shipping containers heading to the US.

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