Mystery Behind Century-Old Jewelry Portrait in Montoursville

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MONTOURSVILLE -- A jeweler in Lycoming County needs your help to identify a portrait on a century-old heirloom.

The owner of Smith's Jewelers has a piece of jewelry with a hand-painted portrait inside that dates back to the late 1800s. Because it's so unique, he's hoping to reunite it with family that may still be living in this area.

Through the front door of Smith's Jewelers, past the jewelry cases, and down a long hallway you'll find the Pennsylvania Gemological Laboratory.

Or as Gary Smith likes to call it, "we're the CSI of the jewelry industry."

One of the few forensic gemologists in the world, smith, whose jewelry shop is in Montoursville, is working to uncover where this antique came from. He wants to return it to its rightful owner.

"Like any detective case, you start at the very top you work your way down. So we know we have a specific item. We know he was a man. We know his approximate age," said Smith.

About three years ago, Smith bought this brooch that dates back to the late 1800s at an auction here in Lycoming County.

"I purchased it, basically, because I wanted the frame part; it's all hard rock gold," he explained.

The portrait in the pin is painted on ivory.

The portrait in the pin is painted on ivory.

At first glance, the pin looks like a photograph. Smith says it was only after he looked at it a little closer that he realized that to someone this painting could be worth something much more.

"I removed it and I saw it was on a sheet of ivory and really got to examine it and realized this was an actual painting."

The micro-portrait of a man who could have worked in the lumber industry stayed on a shelf for three years until Joe Miller from the Lycoming County Genealogical Society saw the piece.

"Just an absolutely magnificent piece, and because this person was probably of some local prominence, certainly someone has to know who this individual is," said Miller.

The hope now is that someone will know who the man is and can help Smith solve the case of the mystery pin.

"I paid a few hundred dollars for it but to whoever it would belong to, it would be priceless."

If you think you can identify the man in the portrait or help in any way, you can contact Smith's Jewelers at 570-368-4653.

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