Thrift store shopper returns $1,800 worth of jewelry found in Q-Tips box

A Shawnigan Lake woman got more than she bargained for when she spent 50 cents on a packet of Q-tips at a thrift shop in Duncan.

Loretta Simms stopped into the Cowichan Auxiliary Hospital Thrift Store on Jan. 17 to have a little look around. She made her way over to the knick-knack shelf and two little boxes caught her eye.

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“They said Q-tips,” Simms said. “I came on home with my little treasure, then drove to a girlfriend’s place. I was in the driveway when I opened one of the boxes. My eyes got big. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I took out a string of pearls first, and when I did, all the rings started falling out.”

She went inside and showed her friend the haul, which included diamond rings, a pink topaz and a sapphire ring.

“You got a great deal there,” her friend told her.

But Simms knew the jewelry should be returned to its owner. Although she tried all the rings on, Simms just didn’t feel right about keeping them. “I don’t think they were meant for me. They were meant for me to find.”

The next afternoon, she went back to the thrift store and told manager Arlene Cristofoli what had happened.

“I was so surprised,” Cristofoli said. “I couldn’t believe that she would actually come in and tell me that she was returning them to me. She’s a wonderful lady.”

Simms wanted to find the owner, but Cristofoli told her the woman, who had often been a patient at the hospital, had died and her son and her brother had brought loads of her belongings to the thrift store.

Cristofoli had the rings appraised and discovered they were worth $1,800.

“And they are already sold,” she said. “We sold five of them on Tuesday morning because I put them in a locked case in the window on Saturday afternoon. By Tuesday morning, people were phoning, people from Ontario and all over the place were contacting me, wanting to buy them.”

The thrift store usually sells items for one-quarter of their retail value.

In this case, Cristofoli sold them for half their value.

“So we got well over $1,000 for the jewelry,” she said.

Sales from the shop benefit the local hospital. Last year, the gift shop and the thrift store spent $150,000 on equipment for patient care and comfort, Cristofoli said.

Simms said she’s happy she returned the jewelry. “The money will go to a good cause and that makes me feel good. It will go to helping the whole community.”

Cristofoli said the family of the woman who died contacted her Thursday. The woman’s brother phoned from Thailand and her son phoned from Salmon Arm. She told them the jewelry had been sold.

The brother was not very happy, she conceded.

“The son was fine with it,” she said. “He said: ‘At least I know it went for a very good cause.’ ”

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