Several books tell of a group of people at the purser's office demanding their jewels. Did McElroy actually hand back anything or did he wave them all away? Did any survivng passenger mention being in line and getting their jewlery?
McElroy, if you remember from 'A Night to Remember', made an example out of the Countess of Rothes, who, passing by his office, did not once make a move to get any of her jewellery back. McElroy, saying quite loud and for the other ladies to hear, shouted to her, 'Hurry, little lady, there is not much time. I'm glad you didn't ask me for your jewels as some ladies have.' I do not know of what First Class passengers got their jewels, but from several accounts I have read that include First Class ladies, there is not much a mention of them in doing so.
I remember reading somewhere that Eleanor Widener was travelling with a strand of pearls worth something like
$300 thousand. I believe that the insurance policy required that they be in her posession at all times and thus they were not deposited with the purser and she wore them off the ship concealed under her clothing. This is the only substantially valuable item of jewelry that I have ever seen mentioned in connection with the Titanic. I also read in a magazine article several years ago that George Widener removed an emerald ring from his finger and placed it on her hand as she stepped into the lifeboat. The ring is now in possession of her grandson.
Now that Lou added that, the Countess of Rothes had also a necklace made up of Scottish freshwater pearls given to her on her wedding day, 19 April 1900, by her husband, Norman Evelyn, Lord Leslie, 19th Earl of Rothes, and Baron of Ballinbreich. She wore that on her neck to the end of her life, and it is in the possession of her grandson, Ian, 21st Earl of Rothes.
The source for the information about the Widener emerald is an article titled "A Night of Ice and Death" by James Villas in the April 1992 issue of Town and Country. The grandson is Eugene Dixon, Jr. and he is pictured wearing the ring. Apparently Charlotte Cardeza didn't bother to drop down one deck from her suite to the Purser's Office directly below before heading for the lifeboat. Her claim for lost property lists on Schedule B jewelry valued in excess of $100 thousand deposited with the Purser.
This is a correction and expansion of the above information on the Widener pearls and comes from the same article cited with information about the emerald ring. Eleanor Widener had two strands of matched 11mm pearls valued at $1 million. She had returned to her cabin too late to have their manservant take them to the Pursers office, thus, luckily having them in her possession.
If the purser's safe on C deck was emptied what happened then to Lucy Duff Gordon's $50,000 dollar pearl necklace (on loan), Mrs. Flegenheim's ($14,707) and Mrs. Cardeza's ($104,743) jewelry? Whereabouts would they be located? Were they left on board in a bag or were they taken off and stolen? I know they recovered a bag but not much was in it. Also Mrs. Helen Dickinson Bishop left behind $11,000 worth of jewelry in her cabin (B-49).