The British Museum announced in record filings this week it lost a Cartier diamond ring worth nearly $1 million more than six years ago, but never made a public effort to find it.
The museum, which is funded by U.K. taxpayers, told the BBC it is policy not to report missing items from its more than 1 million-piece collection for five years, though police were notified when staff discovered it was missing in 2011.
It had been anonymously donated to the museum and was being kept in a portion of the museum not accessible to the public.
It remains unclear whether the ring has been misplaced within the museum itself or if it was stolen.
Either way, The Guardian reported members of the international art community said the situation reflects poorly on the British Museum.
“It’s a public museum and the public’s property — they should have disseminated this information. They should have sent out a theft alert to jewelry groups … as well as other buyers of these materials. This is not an inexpensive ring,” said Chris Marinello, founder of Art Recovery International. “If it’s been misplaced that reflects badly on a museum as well funded as the British Museum. They owe it to the public to maintain these objects and provide sufficient security for them.”
British Museum officials said a major overhaul of security and other policies was undertaken in the wake of the ring’s disappearance in 2011.
“The museum takes the security of the collection extremely seriously. The museum has since reviewed its security and collections management procedures and dedicated significant investment to improved security across the estate,” the group’s board of directors said in a statement.
By Eric DuVall