“Check in the bureau” my mum whispers, barely audible. “Bureau drawer” she repeats, “might be worth something”.
Two weeks later I open the drawer in my mother’s bedroom to find a small box hidden amongst a pile of carefully folded knickers. A humble, tattered cardboard box belying the treasure within.
A month later and my sister and I wander nervously along Piccadilly, peaking into the shiny windows of high-end jewellery shops with impressive names. “Come on, let’s do it!” I challenge, and as we take a deep, nervous intake of breath we push the heavy door and a bell chimes our arrival.
A man in an expensive italian suit comes forward, flanked by a burly security guard. Glass cabinets glint in the corner of my eye as class oozes vapourously around us.
“How can I help you?” the man in the Italian suit utters, eyeing us with poorly disguised suspicion. “We were wondering if you bought or valued jewellery” I whisper. “Ok, let us see what you have” he generously volunteers.
The burly security guard steps forward and gestures for us to sit at a low table as the classy italian puts on some gloves and lays down a deep russet velvet cloth, smoothing out the edges with the back of his hand. As he takes out a small magnifying glass he motions for me to take out our offerings.
Stumbling around in my oversized, Primark bag amongst the nappies and breath freshner and pocket-size hairbrush I finally locate the old tattered cardboard box. Opening the lid surreptitiously, still hidden within my bag I select the best of my wares and lay it down on the cloth.
Without reply the cool Italian beckons me to continue, and I nervously lay out all the precious items from my mother’s box onto his cloth. Slowly, in exaggerated motions he lifts each one up in turn, draws it to his magnified, glassy eye and turns it over, before laying it carefully back down. He repeats this procedure with each piece in turn.
When he is finished he looks up at me and says slowly and with emphasis “There is nothing for US here”.
And I am left to scrabble all my mother’s jewelery together as the burly security guard opens the door for us to fall out like scolded, impudent urchins.
It turns out that the clusters of diamonds my mother stowed away for safekeeping are merely modest studs of marquesite , the gold only plated, the semi-precious stones nothing but coloured rock.
Lucky that I can hear my mother chuckling as loudly as my sister and I giggled that day.