(ABC News) -- A woman’s clothing store employee who found what she thought was a sequin on the store’s floor says her “stomach dropped” when she realized it was a $40,000 diamond lost by a customer.
Barbara Warnshuis was closing the Christopher and Banks clothing store inside the College Square Mall in Morristown, Tenn., on June 29, a Sunday, when she says she picked something up off the floor.
"I turned the lights out and I went to push a rack of clothes out of the way and I saw something on the floor and picked it up,” Warnshuis told ABC News. “I put in my pocket because my hands were full and went home.”
Warnshuis only pulled the item out of her pocket later than night when she went to do laundry. As she looked closer, she thought there was just a slim possibility it could be the approximately 3.5 carat diamond a customer had reported missing the previous day.
The customer, whose name Warnshuis has kept private, went to check out at Christopher and Banks on Saturday afternoon when she realized the diamond had fallen out of the ring her husband had given her as a retirement gift.
“We got down on our hands and knees to look and the woman was in the dressing room emptying her purse out,” Warnshuis recalled. “She had been to other stores in town so had no idea when she lost it.”
“We didn’t vacuum Saturday night and looked again Sunday morning,” she said. “She left me her name and number but I had sort of given up.”
Warnshuis held onto the item she had found on the store’s floor Sunday night and came into work early Monday morning to take it to the Kay Jewelers store in the mall to see if, by chance, it was the customer’s diamond.
“They confirmed it was a diamond, a very clear, high-quality diamond,” Warnshuis said. “My stomach just dropped.”
“I clamped it in my hand and never put it down,” she said. “I came back and called her and she burst into tears and within 15 minutes she was at the store to get it.”
Warnshuis says the woman, whom Warnshuis described as in her 60s, wore the ring as her wedding band. She was so appreciative that she gave Warnshuis a reward for returning the jewel.
“It wasn’t a great sum but just something very nice of her,” Warnshuis said. “I felt guilty taking it and I said, ‘Are you sure?,’ and she said, ‘Yes,’ and gave me a hug.”
“I think she was in shock too,” Warnshuis said. “I don’t think she imagined she’d get it back again. I sure didn’t.”