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The story

Marit Guinness Aschan gained an international reputation for her contemporary enamel work, especially for the exacting plique-a-jour technique used in the missing jewellery. She redefined the craft of enamelwork, developing the traditional and pioneering the new in an extraordinary career encompassing wall panels, freestanding miatures and sculptures, most recently turning to jewellery - all of her work is infused with profound originality and stunning beauty. In the opinion of many she is unquestionably one of the true greats of her craft.

In October 1998 Marit brought a large collection of jewellery to Johan Galtung in Oslo, Norway for a retrospective exhibition - with many additional new pieces, too. Afterwards, Elfad Bodiskhanov, known in the trade and husband of the Norwegian TV personality Marit Christensen, offered to sell the entire collection, together with some gold boxes owned by the gallery's proprietor and others. He announced plans to visit three clients in the Middle East. The collection was last seen all together at the Oslo Norway Jewellers in 1999, shortly before Mr Bodiskhanov disappeared.

While he was away, he telephoned Marit Guinness Aschan, claiming to be in Switzerland. When he reappeared, he had neither jewellery nor payment. Even his passport had disappeared (he claimed it was stolen), so it was difficult to establish where he had been. He may well have never left Norway. He served three and a half years in prison for this and other crimes. His wife Marit Christensen claimed that he had been in Russia. She also came under investigation. He suggested that he had the pieces melted down for the gold and precious stones - a tragedy if true, because the value of the materials is a fraction of the whole collection, in terms both of art and of money - but this may well have been a bluff to try and put off the investigation of his wife.

One or two of the major pieces were quickly recovered; an alert police officer spotted a necklace and one of the gold boxes in a pawnbroker's window in Norway, but the bulk of the collection remains lost. A Norwegian jeweller also reported seeing some pieces when they were brought in to his shop, lending support to the idea that they may never have left Norway.

Marit Guinness Aschan died in 2004, having never fully recovered her health or spirits after the loss of so many masterworks. To my knowledge she never created another piece again.

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Updated 3 Feb 2008

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