Jewelry heists have been immortalized in such movies as "To Catch a Thief" and "Pink Panther" where there's always romance, thrills and even some laughs. But real-life heists are no laughing matter. Some of the most famous robberies in recent history have taken a great amount of planning, the right connections, and a strong dose of moxie to pull off.
The element of surprise and shock seem to also be an elemental factor in most thefts. Take for instance thieves dressed in drag who recently robbed Harry Winston's Paris store near the Champs-Elysees. Witnesses said the well-organized thugs knew the names of several employees as well as where the secret jewelry storage units were located. Dressed in dresses and women's wigs, the men entered the store shortly before it closed, taking not only nearly all the jewelry on display but also jewels stored in the back at an estimated value of $108 million. The heist comes just a year after a similar incident wherein thieves escaped with more than $25 million in gems at the same location, leading some to question if both crimes were perpetrated by the same criminals.
Robbers pulled off one of the most baffling heists ever in 2002 at the Museon Museum of Science in The Hague, Netherlands. The institution was hosting a phenomenal diamond exhibit aimed at educating the public about gems. Included in the exhibition were royal pieces and diamond jewelry from other museums and private collections. The theft was timed well, occurring either on Sunday night or Monday morning. Because the museum is closed on Mondays, the incident was not discovered by authorities until Tuesday.
Amazingly, given all the video surveillance and security, the success of the heist remains a troubling mystery. Guards were unaware of the break-in, nothing showed up on surveillance footage, motion sensors never went off, and display cabinets showed no signs of tampering. Included in the robbery was a wedding gift presented by King William III to Queen Mary II of England in the 1600s. While the estimated value of the stolen diamonds is nearly $12 million, because many of the stolen pieces had historical significance, the loot is considered priceless.
Considered one for the history books, in 2003 burglars swiped nearly $100 million in diamonds in Antwerp, Belgium, considered one of two diamond capitals in the world. Nearly 80 percent of the world's uncut diamonds pass through Antwerp where they may be stored in the Diamond Center building in safety deposit boxes. While there were 160 boxes to open, the thieves were only able to take the contents from 123, and also left loose diamonds strewn around the vault. Authorities discovered the culprits, known as the School of Turin, had been planning the theft for years; renting office space in the building, learning how to bypass the alarm system, and making copies to the vault keys. To cover their movements on the day of the event, they inserted fake tapes into the surveillance system. In this instance, arrests were made, but the diamonds have yet to be recovered.
Just this past year, a group of thieves pulled off the kind of brilliant attempt seen most often in the movies. Four to seven men spent a month tunneling beneath the Damiani Showroom in Milan. The drilling had been heard several weeks prior but it was assumed to be part of construction being undertaken in the building. Once inside, the men reached the first floor using an internal staircase whereby they avoided alarms and surveillance. They then restrained the staff and pilfered through the collection, taking nearly $32 million in jewelry. They would have made off with more if it hadn't been for the Oscars in Hollywood where Damiani had many of his more valuable jewels at a party at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel. Incredibly, no weapons were used and the group may have in fact not even been armed.
Lewis Jewelers is proud to carry the full line of Pandora Jewelry. Pandora charms, Pandora bracelets and Pandora beads are only a part of the collection. For more information, Lewis Jewelers, 2000 West Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48103, 877-88-LEWIS or visit the website.