Museum Races to Buy Former First Lady’s Tiara Before Deadline

The William McKinley Library and Museum in Canton, Ohio, is in full fund-raising mode in an effort to acquire a tiara once worn by former first lady Ida McKinley from a Las Vegas pawn shop.

After her death, Mrs. McKinley left the tiara to her sister. The museum had twice borrowed the tiara from the family and exhibited it, but museum officials were shocked when it showed up on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars—and even more shocked when it was sold. 

Descendents of Mrs. McKinley’s sister sold the tiara to Las Vegas’ Gold & Silver Pawn Shop for $43,000. Kim Kenney, the curator of the William McKinley Library and Museum, reached out to the shop after seeing the show, and Rick Harrison, one of the proprietors, offered to sell the piece to the museum for the same price he paid. The catch: His offer expires on June 24. 

The tiara is in three parts, a band with two diamond-encrusted wings that can be removed to make a brooch. Greg Kwiat, CEO of Fred Leighton, appeared in the episode featuring the tiara to offer appraisal. “Diamonds are fine quality for the period, they’re what you would expect to see,” Kwiat said on the show. “In a retail store like Fred Leighton we’d see this piece sell for $75,000.”

The museum is hosting a $500-per-person Diamond Soiree on April 30 to raise funds. 

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