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Museum Returns Art Treasure Three Years After Theft

November 2, 1991 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ For the first time in three years, a $200,000 Chinese crystal ball is on display at the University of Pennsylvania’s archeology museum.

The quartz sphere, which is believed to be the second-largest in the world, and a 20-inch Egyptian bronze statue were stolen from the university’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Nov. 10, 1988.

The 19th-century ball was returned after a museum volunteer spotted the 2,000-year-old statue in an antique shop on Oct. 24. FBI agents traced the $50,000 statue to a Philadelphia man who had given the 55-pound orb to his former housekeeper.

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No arrests were made in the case as of Friday, according to the FBI.

The statue, which shows the Egyptian god Osiris, is being examined with laser equipment for fingerprints by the FBI in Washington. Neither the statue nor the crystal was damaged, museum spokeswoman Pam Kosty said.

On Friday, museum director Robert H. Dyson Jr. watched as the crystal was returned to its silver base.

″It’s so unusual and so pretty,″ Dyson said, as a gaggle of museum visitors and employees gathered around the ornament.

The crystal ball is housed in a transparent case in the center of the museum’s Chinese Rotunda, surrounded by stone statues of Buddhas, warrior kings and horses. Dyson would not discuss security.

The Burmese quartz crystal was shaped in China and Japan with emery, garnet powder and water while the stone revolved in an iron vessel. It may have been made in the Ch’ien Lung period and was owned by the Dowager Empress Tz’u Hsi.

The crystal was donated to the museum in 1927 by Eldridge R. Johnson, according to Dyson.

Following the burglary, the items seemed to be gone without a trace until Jes Canby, a research associate with the museum, recognized the statue in a South Street antique shop.

A store co-owner said the shop had purchased the statue from a homeless man, who told authorities he received it from a man moving out of the neighborhood.

Police tracked down the former resident, Lawrence Stametz, who told investigators he mysteriously discovered the statue and the crystal ball in his garage several years ago.

He said he had given the ball to a former housekeeper, Kim Beckles of Trenton. The FBI recovered it at her home Tuesday.