A sapphire ring found wrapped in old socks alongside a treasure trove of jewellery at a late grandmother’s house could fetch thousands at auction after almost being binned. Margaret Hood kept the haul of antique items hidden away from relatives and carers who had no idea they existed until she died last October aged 90.
Family members clearing out her house in Littleover, Derby were stunned to discover a lifetime of possessions squirrelled away all over the property. One precious sapphire ring was tightly wrapped up in a Sainsbury’s supermarket carrier bag, swathed in socks and left hanging on a porch hook by the door.
And as they searched the house further, they went on to find a cache of jewellery so valuable it has now been dubbed “The Littleover Hoard”. Some of the great-gran’s incredible collection has already fetched £5,410 at auction and it is expected to make £20,000 in its entirety.
The rest of Margaret’s secret haul will be sold by Richard Winterton Auctioneers in Lichfield, Staffordshire, on March 27. Margaret’s daughter Sue Bird, 66, and son Jonathan Hood, 56, a company director, said clearing out their mum’s house was like a real-life treasure hunt.
Sue, of Mickleover in Derbyshire and a former exam paper co-ordinator at the University of Derby, said: "We didn’t know mum had got all this jewellery. She never told us and it was only by chance we found it all.
“We knew she had inherited some jewellery some decades previously from an old family friend but we had no idea as to the extent. She never showed me or my brother and we were gobsmacked when we started to discover all these boxes.
“When we became aware of the extent of things we started going through everything with a fine tooth comb. The sapphire ring was in an orange Sainsbury’s bag wrapped up in a big green rambling sock inside another bag and then wrapped in five pop socks.
“It was hanging on the wall by the door and we’d all been coming and going, completely oblivious that this stunning ring was literally hidden in plain sight. It was after discovering the ring we had to say ‘right, do not throw anything away’.
“Mum was a lovely lady but I must admit she was the biggest hoarder – she didn’t throw anything away and as the dementia set in she started hiding things around the house. She used to save everything, even every plastic bag – after she died we found 316 plastic bags containing greetings cards.
“We knew she had a safe having had a single glimpse inside many years ago but of course we didn’t know where the key was. We searched and searched and eventually found it concealed in the CD rack behind 300 CDs.
“When we finally opened the safe we found lots more treasures including the sapphire earrings as well as the empty box for the sapphire ring.” Intrigued, Sue started doing her own research into the complicated field of jewellery and soon realised how valuable her mother’s hoard potentially was.
She added: “I wish I had been a gemologist. But it was more that the jewellery kept me going emotionally - it was something to focus on during the grief.
“Our dad John Hood died three-and-a-half years ago – he had Alzheimer’s – and mum kept everything after he passed away. So when we were going through the house after she died, all his things were there too so that resulted in us experiencing grief for him all over again as well.
“There was one set of beads which we nearly threw away but the jewellery team told me they were butterscotch amber and they sold at £420. We just kept finding these little treasures and I was up and down the A38.
“They were brilliant and we are so pleased. One of my friends has dubbed it ‘The Littleover Hoard’." The sapphire and diamond ring found wrapped in socks sports an unheated certified 4.16ct Burmese sapphire and is estimated to sell at £5,000 to £7,000.
A pair of early 20th century sapphire and diamond earrings have also been given a guide price of £5,000 to £7,000. Experts say the jewels tick all the crucial boxes of origin, with no heat treatment and are on antique pedigree.
Other finds included an Alabaster and Wilson sapphire and diamond brooch which sold for £1,200 and a gold and enamel sweetheart ring which made £900. Sue added: “We’ve now sold more than 30 lots with Richard Winterton Auctioneers and looking back we think the only thing we can remember mum wearing was the ring, perhaps once a year.
“To think all of these treasures have been hidden away for years and we had absolutely no idea. We could easily have thrown some of them away and never been any the wiser."