Top 5 Most Recent Jewelry Heists

Believe it or not jewelry heists are not as uncommon as you’d think and actually occur every few years. Carried out in highly advanced operations, jewelry heists have remarkable resemblances to what you see in the movies. Thieves bypassing the most advanced security systems, making off with millions of dollars worth of precious gems and even when they do get caught (if they do), the haul is almost never found. Following are five of the most impressive jewelry heists that have taken place within the last fifteen years; so well executed, even the police who investigated the cases had to appreciate them…

Antwerp Diamond Heist- Heist of the Century

One of the largest-scale diamond heists took place in Antwerp, Belgium, in February of 2003. Antwerp is one of the diam¬ond capitals of the world. The five people accused of the large-scale robbery, had been planning the heist for over two years. Renting office space in the Antwerp Diamond Center building, they had the time to analyze the alarm system, learn how to bypass it, and then made copies of the keys they had already stolen. They ensured that all the security cameras were recorded over on the day of the heist.

The heist wouldn’t be discovered until the next morning when the guards noticed that the subterranean chamber, which was not only a foot-thick of steel but also supposed to be one of the most secure safes in the world, was now ajar, with more than 100 of the 189 safe-deposit  boxes busted open and emptied.

About a week later, investigators found a partially-eaten sandwich near the scene of the crime. The DNA abstracted was that of Leonardo Notarbartolo, a diamond merchant who was renting office space in the Antwerp Diamond Centre. They were able to link Notarbartolo to five other members, one of them his wife, Adriana Crudo. Even though they did get caught, there is still no sign in what police estimate is over $100 million of diamonds and other gems.

Wired has a VERY detailed account about how the robbers coordinated the whole heist after many interviews with Leonardo Notarbartolo.  Read More

Cannes Carlton Hotel Jewelry Heist

On August of 1994 three thieves burst into an exclusive jewelry store in the Carlton hotel in Cannes as it was closing, and in true gangster-movie spirit, fired off machine guns and made their great escape with over $43 million in jewels. Later on it was discovered that the rounds were in fact blanks. The thieves and the jewels are still at large. 

Harry Winston Jewelry Heist

On Dec 4, 2008, $107 million worth of jewelry was stolen from the Harry Winston store in Paris, by four armed robbers- believed to be part of a Serbian gang of 200+ bandits, based all over Europe, known as The Pink Panthers.

They arrived at the store just before closing time, and requested entrance over the intercom. Out of the four robbers, three were dressed in drag, with long blond tresses, sunglasses and winter scarves source.  They strolled in with a small valise on wheels, then pulled out a hand grenade and a .357 Magnum, smashed display cases, shouted orders to employees, many of them by their name. In less than 20 minutes they made off with millions of dollars worth of emeralds, rubies, and very large diamonds.  

But this is just one of many successful Pink Panther Heists. In 2007, some other members of the gang peeled off with $3.4 million dollars worth of diamonds in a Wafi City shopping mall in Dubai. They came ramming into the window of a Graff jewelry boutique in two Audi cars, took the diamonds and then sped back off in the cars, which they later set on fire to eliminate evidence. Someone caught the last 30 seconds of the robbery on camera and it has received over 200,000 hits on YouTube.

The Museon Museum Jewel Heist

The Museon science museum in the Netherlands was showcasing some of the world’s most remarkable diamonds, lent to the Museon by other museums and private collectors, in December of 2002. The museum had 24-hour security guards, 24-hour surveillance-cameras covering every inch of the exhibit. The most valuable pieces were all in a motion-detection zones and encased in reinforced glass. In short, the museum seemed secure and protected. This was not the case.

The mysterious robbery occurred at some point Sunday night or Monday morning, when six of the 28 display cases containing some of the most valuable pieces, were found emptied, including a wedding gift given by King William III to Queen Mary II of England in the 1600s. Yet aside from the missing gemstones, the only sign of any break-in at all, was a smashed window to get into the museum, and of course the empty cases.

The footage from surveillance cameras didn’t reveal anything. Even the display cases failed to show any signs of tampering. Though the idea of a Phantom Bandit almost seems plausible, insider information was likely the key to this successful heist. The museum put a price tag of $12 million, though many of the items are considered to be priceless.

The Damiani Jewelry Heist

T’was the night of the 2008 Academy Awards, but while stars accepted their Oscars, seven thieves were making off with some of the most prized pieces from the world-famous Damiani showroom in Milan. Disguised as police they came through the cellar wall, which they had been drilling for over four weeks, tied up staff and locked them in the bathroom, while they forced the manager to open the safety deposit room. The thieves were out in half and hour, netting about 20 million in gold, diamonds, rubies and other precious gems.
The funny thing is that for weeks, a woman who lived right near the Damiani showroom had been complaining to police about loud drilling noises. But instead of investigating, the police ignored the woman’s complaints- attributing the noise to construction going on in the neighbourhood.   
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