A Washington jewelry store, hoping to cash in on the recent "Masquerade" treasure hunt mania, has hidden a cache of gems in the nation's capital and will be selling buried treasure maps with clues to the jewels' whereabouts.

But this time, it's a case of Hype over Hare. No pretty pictures. No charming words. Just an unmasked case of pure P.R.

"My husband and I were sitting around with my parents one night talking about the book 'Masquerade,' " said Maria Hallam, 28-year-old entrepreneur whose Alexandria-based company, Promotions, Ltd., came up with the idea last fall. "We thought, why not a treasure hunt in Washington?"

Readers of Kit Williams' best-selling book "Masquerade," which baffled thousands for three years, were given clues to the location of an 18-karat-gold hare-shaped pendant which had been buried by the author. Billed as the greatest publicity gimmick of all time, "The Golden Hare" was recently found by a 48-year-old car designer 40 miles north of London.

Hallam and her husband, Keith, seized upon the treasure hunt idea to inaugurate their new promotional firm. When they approached Kay Jewelers with the idea, the company agreed to fork over $5,000 worth of uncut diamonds, emeralds and rubies to the winner. Hallam said the hidden jewels are not the real gems, only replicas. "They're too valuable to actually hide," she said.

Already, 10,000 maps have been printed, with the clues derived from anagrams, cryptograms and historic landmarks. The $3.95 maps will go on sale April 15 at area book and convenience stores. Hallam said the puzzle will take approximately three weeks to solve. "It's been hidden very uniquely," she said.

"I think it's a good idea," Bette Bradbury, director of advertising for Kay Jewelers, said of the publicity stunt. "It will be fun in the spring."

Hallam said the gems were hidden several months ago during daylight hours. They took special care to find a suitable place, which can be tricky in a city like Washington. "We made sure," she said, "that it wasn't on government property."