It may have been the bargain of a lifetime: A set of diamond rings valued at $5,600 for the price of a pair of old black wing-tipped shoes in a local thrift store.

Jean Pirkle, of Seven, Md., hid the rings in her husband's old shoes after a buglary last year. Two weeks ago, after a house-cleaning session, she bundled the shoes up with other old clothing and dropped the whole package into the collection Dumpster for the local Good Will Industries store.

This week, she realized what she had done but she may have been too late. Henry B. Grogan, the Good Will manager, said he had seen no trace of the jewels. "If someone else found it before we did, I don't think they'd tell us about it," he said.

Old shoes sold at the store range in price from $3 to $6, he said. Mrs. Pirkle said the rings belonged to her grandparents. One was a woman's filigreed white gold band with a two-carat stone surrounded by four smaller diamonds.

The other was a man's white gold ring with a 2 1/2-carat European cut stone valued at $3,000.

Mrs. Pirkle reported the loss to Anne Arundel County police just in case the gems glitter into light again.