A Shopper's $2 Thrift Store Necklace Turns Out to Be Worth $3,000

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Jan. 10 2024, Published 4:13 p.m. ET

TikToker Jess Smith was shopping at her favorite thrift store in Pittsburgh when she stumbled upon a large necklace that sort of looked like a Tide Pod upon first glance. After forking over just $1.99 for the eye-catching piece of jewelry, she later found out it was worth $3,000 — and the envy of her social media followers.

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From a cheap thrift shop find to a work of art worth thousands of dollars that connects to Pittsburgh's rich and artful history, the well-traveled necklace has quite the story. We've got the amazing details on this remarkable find.

An outdoor jewelry store at a market in Spain displays various necklaces available for sale.
Source: iStock
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A thrift shopper bought a unique necklace for $2.

The story begins when Smith, 23, stumbled upon a "very large, neon, and translucent pendant necklace" at her favorite thrift store in Pittsburgh, she explains in the now-viral TikTok.

The necklace, with its big, bold colors and unique design, caught Smith's eye and she grabbed it off the rack.

"When I say giant, I mean it was a big pendant, easily 2 by 2 or 3 by 3 inches," Smith told Insider. A fellow shopper pointed out to her that it looked like it could be from the 1970s, which prompted Smith's curiosity and further contemplation about the necklace.

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Upon closer examination, Smith saw a signature she didn't recognize preceding the year 1973 written beneath the pendant.

Needing no additional evidence that the necklace would be worth the investment, she purchased it for $1.99 and headed home to do research on the unique find.

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The necklace turned out to be made by famous artist Aaronel deRoy Gruber, and worth thousands.

Curiosity piqued, Smith returned home to do research on the unique find, as she explained in her TikTok.

She took a picture of the necklace and uploaded it to Google Lens; from there, she determined that the pendant was visually similar to other pieces made by an artist named Aaronel deRoy Gruber, whose work is featured in several museums, including the Smithsonian.

The Pittsburgh-based artist, Smith discovered, designed plexiglass jewelry in the 1960s and 1970s, confirming the suspicions her fellow shopper had about the necklace's "1970s vibes" per Insider.

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Per Gruber's biography, she became adept at making plastic and plexiglass sculptures, eventually becoming a groundbreaker in the field. Ironic, to be sure, as Smith initially believed the necklace to be a piece of plastic.

After learning more about the artist, she consulted with the gallery director at The Irving and Aaronel deRoy Gruber Foundation and confirmed the legitimacy of the jewelry.

The necklace, she then found out, was valued at $3,000.

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At this point, when most would have sought to cash in on the treasure of a find, Smith loaned the piece to the gallery for a period of one year (with the option to extend the loan) so that others may enjoy the historical piece of art.

Smith explained in her video that she never intended to sell it, with the initial intention to wear it herself.

Smith made a followup TikTok video answering questions from her followers and acknowledging that, yes, this rare piece of jewelry does look like a Tide Pod.

Text in the video also acknowledges the "Jolly Rancher vibes" the pendant gives off, though Smith says it looks to her like a car headlight. Nevertheless, Smith now has an unforgettable story to share from her favorite thrift store.

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