Five most famous gem heists
Hollywood versions of gem heists are extremely popular, but make the task look much easier than it really is. Gem heists require a huge amount of engineering and planning. When successful, the perpetrators walk away with gems that will produce large sums of money. The thieves are, however, usually caught and the gems are often never recovered. Is the diamond in your local jewellery store one of the gems from a famous jewellery heist? Or have all the stolen goods been secretly sold off to foreign royals? We may never know, but the most famous gem heists have interesting stories. Here is a list of the top-five gem heists, all of which have occurred recently.
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Millennium Dome raid
Although an unsuccessful robbery, this heist is among the most famous gem heists of all time. After the construction of the Millennium Dome was completed in 2000 in London, there were many exhibits, including a world-class diamond display with a 203-carat diamond called the Millennium Star worth upwards of £205 million.
In total, a successful heist of this exhibit would have been worth £576 million, however, the police were on to these thieves because of previous armoured car robberies. So instead of a Hollywood getaway, the group was arrested on site.
Antwerp diamond heist
This is often referred to as the heist of the century. Leonardo Notarbartolo rented an apartment next to the Antwerp Diamond Centre three years before the robbery and posed as an Italian diamond merchant at the centre. He led a team that robbed nearly £82 million worth of jewels. They would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for that meddling DNA left on Notarbartolo’s sandwich.
He threw away the security footage from the day of the heist along with a partially eaten sandwich. Police were able to obtain enough DNA from the sandwich to connect Notarbartolo to the crime, but the gems have never been recovered.
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Pink Panther’s Harry Winston heist
A group of well-dressed women walking into a jewellery store in Paris did not seem out of the ordinary on this day in December of 2008. However, the group turned out to be men disguised as women who threatened the jewellery store staff with guns and made off with £88 million worth of gems. This group, who successfully got away and were never caught, are suspected to be among the infamous Pink Panthers.
Graff Diamonds thieves
The two thugs responsible for this £53 million gem raid were seen on security footage with their faces clearly showing, but that is not how they got caught. They visited a professional make-up artist before the robbery and were fitted with prosthetics in order to conceal their identities. All of their efforts were for naught as one of the men left his mobile phone in the getaway car so that when police searched the vehicle, they were able to identify the criminal to whom the phone belonged.
Carlton Hotel stick-up
This heist is unique as it was successfully carried out by a single perpetrator. A man wearing a baseball cap and scarf walked into the famous Cannes hotel’s exhibit area where there was a large jewel display. With just a pistol, he left with a suitcase full of jewels worth £111 million due to a lack of armed guards. He is also suspected of being a member of the Pink Panthers, but we may never know for sure. Interestingly, the hotel is the setting for the 1955 thriller To Catch a Thief about a jewel robbery.