Many families claim to have all sorts of treasures buried in drawers or forgotten about in dusty cabinets.
But few own anything quite as interesting – or as valuable – as a necklace once belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots.
The existence of the pearl necklace – which has been kept in a cigar box for many years – has emerged after it was loaned to a tiny museum in Linlithgow, where it is to go on display for the first time.
Its owner, who lives locally, wishes to remain anonymous.
Curator of Annet House Museum and Garden, Alan Young, said: “It’s claimed the necklace was presented by Mary, Queen of Scots to one of her ladies in waiting, a girl called Mary Kelso.
“It is said to have been in his family for 500 years – apparently it was kept in a cigar box and stuck in a drawer.
“I’ve no reason to doubt the story behind these pearls is genuine and that an ancestor of the family has been a lady in waiting. All of the evidence suggests Mary, Queen of Scots was very generous towards her ladies in waiting.”
The choker necklace, which is in excellent condition, consists of strands of small seed pearls linked by gold squares.
There are a number of freshwater pearls attached to the strands of seed pearls, and it has a broad ribbon at either end, presumably used for tying the necklace.
The pearls have been examined by a jeweller who confirmed the style is consistent with the mid-16th century.
Efforts will now get under way to establish the history behind the necklace.
It will be on display at Annet House’s Images of a Queen exhibition, examining the way Mary – who was born at Linlithgow Palace – has been portrayed over the years.
Mr Young said he was ‘surprised and excited’ when the necklace – which will go on display this Saturday – came in to the possession of the museum.
“Things from the 16th century are normally either in the possession of a family or they are in a large museum – they don’t usually find their way to small museums.
“I have no idea how much these pearls are worth. The only way you could value them would be to put them up for auction.”
Sandy Thomson of West Lothian History and Amenity Society said: “It’s nice that the pearls have been presented to the museum to go on display for a while rather than the owners just putting them up for auction to try and get as much money as they can.
“A lot of people would just have said, ‘I can flog these pearls and make a lot of money’, but the people who own them seem to be a bit more generous and responsible.”
The exhibition will run until October 31.