Thrift store shopper in B.C. returns Q-tip box after finding jewelry worth $1,800 inside

Loretta Simms walked out of a thrift store last week with a small box of Q-tips — but she was actually walking away with a jewelry collection worth $1,800.

Woman paid 50 cents for 8 rings and a string of pearls

Loretta Simms accidentally picked up a jewelry collection worth about $1,800 at a Vancouver Island thrift store last week. She'd paid 50 cents for what she thought was a box of Q-tips. (CHEK News)

Loretta Simms walked out of a thrift store last week with a small box of Q-tips in her hand. She'd spent 50 cents and was heading home with plans to clean her windows with the cotton swabs.

Turns out she was actually walking away with a jewelry collection worth about $1,800, hidden in a container the size of her palm.

"They say you can't find good finds at a thrift shop and I say, 'Hey, I sure did,'" Simms said.

These rings and a string of pearls nearly fell out of the Q-tips box when Simms arrived home on Jan. 17. Some rings have diamond, emeralds and rubies at the centre. (CHEK News)

Simms had popped into the Cowichan Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store in Duncan, B.C., to nose around for a good deal last Wednesday, and picked up the Q-tips on a whim.

When she slipped the box open at home in Shawnigan Lake, she nearly dropped it.

Tucked inside were eight rings set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies — including a diamond engagement ring — and an authentic string of pearls.

The director of the the thrift shop said she just took it for granted that Q-tips would be inside the box and hadn't thought to check. (CHEK News)

Without a second thought, Simms slid the box shut and travelled 20 kilometres back to the shop to return the collection. The staff were floored.

"I just took it for granted that they were Q-tips and put them out on the shelf," said shop director Arlene Cristofoli, who'd priced the box at less than a dollar.

"She paid 50 cents for eight rings and a string of pearls." 

Arlene Cristofoli, director of the thrift store, priced the hidden jewelry collection at 50 cents. (CHEK News)

As it turns out, a man living abroad donated the jewelry from his late sister's collection. All the items are back up for sale at the thrift store, with proceeds benefiting the Cowichan District Hospital.

Volunteers at the store said Simms was "wonderful" and "astounding" to bring the rings and necklace back. Simms said she wanted to be sure the higher selling price would help patients.

"I just felt it wasn't for me," Simms said. "Meant for me to find and bring back, but not for me."

With files from CHEK News and Skye Ryan