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Honesty: The Jewelry Box

As part of our series on Human Qualities, here is a great true story of honesty I heard about one of our inspectors, Rob Amaral:

Rob was sent to inspect a vacant Colonial-era mansion on the South Shore of Boston for a relocation company. The listing agent had unlocked the door and told him to lock up when he left. It was broom clean, no furniture—he would be in and out of there in no time.

Rob moved through the house with ease. While diligently performing the inspection in a systematic manner, he suddenly discovered a strange section of an old wood wainscoting wall. It had long scratches on it that could only have been caused by the piece of wall moving up vertically behind the horizontal trim above it.

So he tried to see if it moved. It did, exposing a small jewelry box. One look, revealed the word “Tiffany.” Was it perhaps the jewelry box owner’s name? Rob brushed away some dust and revealed the name of the world-famous jeweler, Tiffany and Co. The amount of spider-webs and dust indicated that the box was probably hidden there in the wall since the 1940’s or earlier.

He photographed it where it lay, then opened it and took photos of the jewelry inside. There was a huge gold men’s ring with a large diamond in it and a set of solid-gold antique chain cufflinks, also adorned with diamonds.

Everything was very beautiful and no one even knew that the jewelry was there, but Rob knew exactly what he needed to do. Right on the spot, he notified the broker. He documented the whole situation and eventually she did manage to get the box back to the transferee. They were so grateful that he was actually given a reward for recovering the box.

What a discovery though. Afterwards, Rob said it was like finding treasure. It made him wonder why it was ever hidden in the first place, he said, and what caused it to ultimately be left behind by its owner—only to be found over half century later—not by a historian or pipe-smoking detective—but by a U.S. Inspect home inspector. As it turns out, after speaking to a friend and professional jeweler, the items were probably worth somewhere in the multiple thousands.

Rob said about the experience that it was truly a test of his honesty that he was proud to have passed—and no amount of money could take the place of knowing you know how to do what’s right even when it’s easy to do what’s wrong. "I’m happy that I was able to be honest, he said—even when no one was looking."