Museum rushes to get hold of First Lady’s tiara

The William McKinley Library and Museum is raising money to purchase the tiara of former First Lady Ida McKinley, owned by a pawn shop in Las Vegas.

After the death of the wife of the 25th President of the United States, Ida McKinley, the tiara passed to her sister. During its existence, the museum twice borrowed the ornament from Ida’s family to display it as a temporary exhibit in the collection. But recently museum officials were horrified to see the tiara on the History Channel reality show Pawn Stars about the everyday concerns of the owners of a famous pawn shop in Las Vegas, and even more shocked when museum officials learned that the pawn shop itself owns the jewel.

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The descendants of Mrs. McKinley’s sister had sold the tiara for $43,000 to a pawn shop in Las Vegas specializing in historic gold and silver jewelry.

Kim Kenney, one of the curators of the William McKinley Museum & Library, got in touch with Rick Harrison, one of the pawnshop owners, right after watching the show and Harrison agreed to sell the piece to the museum for the same price as it had been bought back from the previous owners. However, the generous offer was not without a catch: the deal expires June 24.

The tiara consists of three parts: a headband and two diamond-studded wings that can be detached from the headband to be used as a brooch. Fred Leighton jewelry boutique executive director, Gregory Couillat, participated in the filming of an episode of Pawn Stars.

The tiara is set with diamonds of high quality, especially for the early twentieth century, which is the level one expects to see when encountering such jewelry. A retail store like Fred Leighton would sell such a tiara for $75,000. commented Gregory Kouillat

To raise money to buy the historic tiara back from the pawnshop, the museum will host a dinner party on April 30 called the Diamond Soiree, which will cost $500 per person.

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