Finders Keepers

Nelson Coleman Jewelers has placed gifts around Towson and Baltimore with a simple request: finders keepers. (submitted photo / December 18, 2011)

That small, elegantly-wrapped silver package doesn't look like it belongs in the frozen peas section of a grocery store.

But that's what happens in December, when Nelson Coleman Jewelers plays Secret Santa for the third year in a row.

Each year, starting Dec. 1, the jeweler at 307 E. Joppa Road leaves brightly wrapped gifts in public places throughout Towson and Baltimore through Dec. 24.

The note that comes with the gift that's enclosed says, "No strings attached, finders keepers."'

It explains the package is from "Santa's Friends at Nelson Coleman Jewelers" who thought "Santa Claus might need a hand during these extraordinary times."

"We're happy to help," says the note. "The jewelry is real, the gift is yours, the pleasure is ours."

Two different jewelry gifts are being hidden this year, according to Chris Coleman, co-owner and president of the family-owned firm that has been in the Baltimore metropolitan area for more than 100 years.

The first is a sterling silver necklace with a diamond "Key to My Heart" pendant by designer Lau, valued at $125.

The second is a strand of 62 White-Rose luster, fresh water pearls on a sterling silver spring ring clasp, valued at $100. 

Some of the packages have been claimed.  Others are still awaiting discovery.

A new package is placed each day, Coleman said. There is no shortage of imagination about where to place the gifts.

"A different staff member picks a location where it will get to folks who might need it the most," he said. "It really puts them in a giving mode."

Staff has left gifts at bus stops, public libraries and even Department of Public Works salt domes, and Coleman himself has delivered three to the local House of Ruth, he said.

"I also left gifts in waiting rooms of two different hospitals, unsure if I would get in trouble for leaving an 'unattended package.' "

The note with the gift requests just one thing from the finder.

"We only ask that you let us know where and when you found the package," the note says. "We hate to think that one of these special gifts was never located."

They have received some touching letters, he said. For instance from the man and wife who had pledged not to give each other a Christmas gift because they couldn't afford to, and the visitor from a foreign country who didn't know anybody in the area — and found a gift on a bench in Hampden.

"But most we never hear from," he said. "We think they may be embarrassed."

But, in general, the reactions have been wonderful from both the gift givers and the receivers, said Coleman.

"Our staff couldn't wait to kick off this year's Secret Santa trips," Coleman said. "They love being able to give back to our community each year."