In Search of Priceless Delights

Stolen pioneer jewelry box

During Christmas time, my nephew and his family visited for a couple of days. It was wonderful to spend time with them, especially their three small children. We enjoyed the tree, a warm fire and a variety of treats. But the holidays brought torrential rains to Sacramento and the kids couldn’t play outside. The oldest, Sofia, went shopping with her mother and grandmother. Mateo, just a few months old, went along for the trip to the mall.

That left Joaquin, almost 5 and full of energy. The men watched football and Joaquin felt left out. So I scooped him up and we went to the Crocker Art Museum. Joaquin was enchanted. We explored all the galleries, moving at the pace Joaquin set. We talked about the traveling Norman Rockwell exhibit, lingered over landscapes that included animals, especially deer, we talked about the Samurai armor and studied Japanese swords.

We also talked about the rarity of the objects and their value and I explained in terms I hope were understood by a child that much of what we saw that day was priceless, which led to a discussion of security and museum etiquette — no touching.

As I was pointing out ceiling surveillance cameras to my amazed grandnephew, security guards rushed through the Asian art gallery, as if on cue, talking into their radios, charging ahead, in hot pursuit, underlining my points to Joaquin about value and the security needed in a treasure house. I could see he was greatly impressed–by the beauty, history and and value of the art that we enjoyed, and the efforts made to protect it.

A few weeks ago, a historical 19th century, Pioneer-era quartz and gold jewelry box was stolen from the Oakland Museum of California’s permanent collection. I’ve been planning to take Joaquin to the Oakland Museum and when I read about the theft, I thought about him and the conversation we’d had on that rainy day in December, recalled how engaged he’d been at the Crocker, how touched by the beauty he saw, how he recognized the importance of maintaining and protecting the treasures. 

The Oakland Museum recently offered a reward for return of the jewelry box — $12,000.

Jewelry Box Description:

Made between 1869 and 1878 by A. Andrews, a San Francisco goldsmith. It is made of California gold, and features a rectangular moulded top and base that rests on four feet formed of four miniature female figures depicting allegorical California.

The artifact is seven inches in height; nine inches on length; and seven inches in depth. The top pilasters and mouldings are of veined gold quartz in tones of grey and cream with veining of gold. The interior of the top is recessed and engraved in full relief with scene of the early days of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads, mounted Native Americans, herds of buffalo, and a train of cars. The gold quartz is cut and set in mosaic fashion in the top of the lid, exterior and the sides are gold veined quartz.

I don’t expect you’ll stumble across this treasure as you go about your daily lives, but want to point out the loss, not just of something of great monetary value, but of an object that’s part of our heritage, that holds the promise of priceless delights for grownups and children, alike. Sadly, not anymore.

Questions about the jewelry box, the reward, or the Oakland Museum of California in general should be directed to 510-318-8460 or

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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