In Rome, in 1965, a jeweler came to work one day to find that the wall to his establishment had been bust open. The break-in technique was common at that time in Europe. It consisted in using a large vice-like device that applies pressure between surfaces to break through a space, as in between buildings. The jeweler was Silvio’s grandfather.
Silvio is recovering from the events that took place earlier this week at his shop. What else can one do but press forward? A clear outlook is a must and a bit of healthy curiosity cannot hurt. So we decided to explore jewelry heists for a moment.
A major jewelry heist takes place somewhere in the world at least every two years. Heists are highly engineered and painstakingly master-minded events. They are rarely carried out by only one individual and, unlike the robbery at Ornament Studio this week, they rarely impact artisans and their families directly. Thank goodness for that.
There is one aspect small-scale jewelry robberies and true heists have in common: In both cases, the items stolen are rarely ever found. This is especially puzzling in the case of large heists because of the magnificent value of the items stolen. Yet they do not seem to turn up anywhere as they should if exchanged for money. One reason for this is that most high-end jewelry thieves favor uncut gems. These are difficult to recognize or traced. As for precious metals, they are usually melted down and mixed with other metals, rendering them untraceable.
Where is the main difference, then, besides the value of the loot? Well, the small-time thief is usually perceived with much scorn and fear. The heist master, on the other hand, is often openly or secretly perceived as a mysterious hero. This makes the heist a very interesting topic for movies, allowing the director to capture the audience with intricate character development and storyline twists.
Here are three legendary heists:
1983: Heathrow Airport, London, England. Brink warehouse. Value: about $39 million. The thieves had inside help and their target was cash. They were surprised to find gold bullion instead. Their perseverance (a 2-hour ordeal instead of the planned 5 minutes due to the unexpected bulk of the prize), paid off. They even found and nabbed an unexpected stash of diamonds while they were at it. The men were found, the gold not.
1994: Cannes, France. Carlton Hotel jewelry shop. Value stolen: about $60 million. The robbers banked on fear, showing up at shop closing and shooting wildly at those present, with machine guns. Everyone fled the scene, leaving the three men to snatch at will and take off. Neither they, nor the jewels, were ever found. Upon investigating the crime scene, the police promptly noticed the absence of bullet holes in walls and ceilings. The thieves had fired blanks.
2003: Belgium, Antwerp Diamond Center. Approximate value: $100 million. Antwerp, along with Dubai, is the world’s diamond capital. Eighty percent of the world’s uncut gems go through the Antwerp Center vault. Diamond brokers leave them here for safeguard, often for as little as 24 hours. The vault contained 160 safety deposit boxes. 123 were emptied and diamonds were found about the floors. Apparently, the thieves had more than they could handle. The thieves rented office space in the building three years prior to their coup, where-from they analyzed to security system and created fake security tapes to cover their tracks. They were apprehended thanks in part to a partially eaten sandwich left on the premises by one of them. Police later found what appeared to be some of the loot in another vault, in Italy. They took photos for confirmation. When they returned to retrieve the stolen gems, they were gone.
Do not try this at home. Get a Gift Certificate from Ornament Studio instead so that someone you care about can acquire a truly unique piece of jewelry that will be a meaningful heirloom for generations to come… one that will not need to be hidden!
Also Read – We Were Robbed