Showing posts with label Jewelry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jewelry. Show all posts

November 17, 2019

Recovered: Ring once owned by Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde


Note:  This article has been revised to include an interview with Arthur Brand at the closure of this article: 

Engraved with Greek lettering, a gold ring donated by the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde has been recovered. The author 
Albumen Photo of Oscar Wilde, 1882
by Napoleon Sarony
National Portrait Gallery NPG P24
of scintillating essays and The Picture of Dorian Gray donated the ring to his second alma mater, the University of Oxford, in 1876.  A place where, looking back on his life Wilde reflected pivotally in a letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas that "the two great turning points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford and when Society sent me to prison." ('De Profundis' — O. W.).  It was the young lord's father who brought about Wilde's spectacular fall from grace.

Wilde read Classics as an undergraduate at Oxford from 1874 to 1878. His ring was once displayed in a butterfly case alongside the  "Magdalen" papyrus, three pieces of a manuscript donated by Reverend Charles B. Huleatt.  The ring disappeared from Magdalen College on May 2, 2002 in the early morning hours when Eamonn Andrews A.K.A. Anderson, a former Magdalen cleaner and handyman broke into the college, stole whiskey from the college bar and then impulsively made off with the 18-carat gold friendship ring and two rowing medals: the 1910 Henley Royal Regatta Grand Challenge Cup medal and a 1932 silver and bronze medal presented to RFG Sarell in 1932. 

The "Old Library" of Magdalen College in Oxford.
When forensic evidence quickly linked the thief to the crime, Andrews confessed, telling police during his interrogation that he had sold the ring and medals to a London scrap metal dealer for just £150.  Andrews was subsequently sentenced to two years incarceration for this offense, yet despite a modest reward, the 18-carat gold literary artifact seemed lost, and would remain missing for 17 years. 

But Wilde's famous ring was too important and too valuable to be melted down, something the fence Andrews delivered the ring to evidently knew.  Collaborating with London based Hungarian-born antiquities dealer William Thomas Veres, a dealer with a less than pristine background written about often on this blog, Arthur Brand, a Dutch private investigator worked credible leads which led to the eventual recovery of the author's ring. 

Brand's informant (or informants) led him to explore details of the famous April 2015 London heist at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company.  That multi-million pound heist took place over the four-day Easter and Passover holidays and was carried out by a gang of mostly elderly robbers, in what some believe was to be their swan song burglary before retiring for good. 

During this heist some of the culprits dressed as gas repair men as they drilled away for hours before eventually boring their way through a 50 centimeter wall to gain access the storage facility, while bypassing the main door.  Once through the wall, the team of burglars ransacked a total of 73 safety boxes containing gold jewellery, precious and semi precious stones, documents and cash. 

Destroyed safety deposit boxes at
Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company after the 2015 burglary
Following up on leads London's Metropolitan Police would eventually arrest ten suspects.  Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company never recovered and went into liquidation. Ultimately eight career criminals involved in the dramatic heist would be sentenced for their involvement.  

John "Kenny" Collins pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

Hugh Doyle was found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years. 

Daniel Jones pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

William Lincoln was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property and was sentenced to a seven-year prison term. 

Terry Perkins pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and  initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and to pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail but died one week after the ruling.  

Brian Reader was sentenced to a six years and three months prison term and to pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

Michael Seed was found guilty of burglary and conspiracy to burgle and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Carl Wood was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property and was sentenced to a six-year prison term. 

Jon Harbinson was found not guilty and discharged.  

Paul Reader was never charged.

Of the £14 million in loot taken during the Hatton Garden burglary only a fraction of the stolen property, approximately £4,3 million, was ever recovered. Yet whispers from not so literary criminal informants with knowledge of the London heist's haul spoke of one of the items grabbed in the burglary:  

...a Victorian gold ring inscribed with what they thought was Russian text.   

For now details about Brand's recovery are limited due to the nature of the investigation, though this is not the first time that the name of the London art merchant William Veres has been connected to the Dutch investigator's recoveries, as Mr. Brand openly admits when interviewed. 

In November 2018 Veres was connected to Brand in the recovery of a 6th century byzantine mosaic of Saint Mark which once decorated the apse of the church of Panaya Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, Northern Cyprus. Veres' name also came up a second time in January 2019, connected to Brand's recovery of two 7th century limestone reliefs which originally adorned the church of Santa Maria de Lara.  

When asked about the London dealer's motives for helping, Mr Brand stated first and foremost, that Mr. Veres is never paid for the assistance he gives on these cases.  Secondly he stated that though he [Veres] has had encounters with the law in the past, Brand believes that these assists might help the dealer in cleaning up his reputation.  Lastly, Brand stated that you cannot recover stolen art with the help of the Salvation Army, and underscored "all my investigations, including this one, are conducted with the local police authorities full knowledge and are completely legal in the eyes of the law."

When asked about George Crump, who Brand states facilitated in this investigation, the private investigator stated that Crump is "an honest man who knows the London criminal world thanks to his late uncle, a former owner of a casino."  Brant also indicated that Crump's uncle died decades ago but that the nephew still knows his late Uncle's old friends and was therefore "the best person to discreetly inquire as to where the ring might be located, and indeed he succeeded."

The story of this recovery has been filmed by a Dutch film crew and will be aired as part of a documentary in the Summer of 2020.  For now Oscar Wilde's ring is is set to go on display, Wednesday December 4th during a ceremony at the University of Oxford. 

April 24, 2019

4 of 6 individuals, believed to be tied to a Pink Panther operating cell, head to trail in the jewel heist at the Doge's Palace in Venice.


Following up on the museum jewel heist which occurred during the "Treasures of Mughals and Maharajas" exhibition at the Doge's Palace in Venice in January 2018.   

On January 3, 2018 jewelry worth an estimated €2m (£1.7m) was stolen from a display case at the museum palace of the Doge of Venice during a brazen, broad daylight, robbery which occurred shortly after ten in the morning on the last day of the exhibition. Taken during the theft were a pair of pear-shaped 30.2-carat diamond earrings in a platinum setting along with an equally weighty 10 carat, grade D diamond and ruby pendant brooch.  Both items belonged to His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, who is the first cousin of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.  

According to a report first published on Twitter by Mediaset Journalist Clemente Mimun, the Italian authorities had long suspected that the thieves behind the museum theft might have had inside help and were likely part of a criminal network made up of associates from the former Yugoslavia, sometimes referred to as "the Pink Panthers".  This network, working in small yet coordinated cells, are believed to be responsible for some 200+ robberies spanning 35 countries over the last two decades.  Some thefts, like that at the Doge's palace, have been discreet, 60-second affairs.  Others have been armed robberies or have involved automobiles being rammed into glass storefronts.  In total the thieves are believed to have made off with an estimated €500 million in jewels and gemstones, much of which has never been recovered.

But everyone knows that good police work sometimes requires patience. 

Following months of investigations by the mobile squad of the Venice Police Headquarters and the  Central Operational Service of the Central Anti-crime Directorate of the State Police, working alongside prosecutor Raffaele Incardona, six suspects were ultimately identified by the Italian authorities. Between November 7 and November 8, 2018 five of these men, including four Croatians and one Serb, were taken into custody in Croatia in a coordinated action involving Police Directorates in Zagreb and Istra based upon European arrest warrants issued for the suspect's related to their alleged involvement in the Venice museum theft. 

Five of those named by Italian authorities are believed to have visited the Doge's Palace in Venice on two test-run occasions prior to the actual theft.  Their first visit occurred on December 30, 2018 and their second on the day before the robbery.   Each time the team apparently tried to steal jewelry from the exhibition without success or were practicing in advance of the final event. 

Vinko Tomic
The brains behind the heist is purported to be 60-year-old Vinko Tomic, who goes by several other names, including Vinko Osmakčić and Juro Markelic.  No stranger to crime Tomic has already been connected with other million dollar hits.  Tomic has been implicated in the thefts of $1m worth of diamond watches in Honolulu, the heist of the $1m Millennium Necklace in Las Vegas, the filching of three rings, collectively worth £2m in London, and other high value jewel heists in Hong Kong, Monaco and Switzerland.  

When appearing in court in connection with one prior offense, Tomic made a statement to the presiding judge that he was a war veteran originally from the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina who was wounded in battle in 1995 and who fled, first to Croatia and later to Germany.  There,  unable to find work, he stated he eventually turned to a life of crime, though he managed to provide for his family and put his brother through school. 

For Italian law enforcement their biggest break in the case came as a result of a slip up on the part of the gang's leader.  According to chief prosecutor Bruno Cherchi, the Venice police chief Danilo Gagliardi, and Alessandro Giuliano, director of the Central Operational Service of the Central Anti-crime Directorate of the State Police, who spoke at a press conference on the investigation, officers identified a Facebook photo of Tomic wearing an identical ring to the one he was wearing when captured on CCTV footage at the Doge's Palace in Venice. 

Tomic's alleged accomplices to the Venice jewel theft are listed here:

Zvonko Grgić
Zvonko Grgić (age 43) whose now static Facebook profile lists him as an armed security contractor available for global security around the world. 

Želimir Grbavac
Želimir Grbavac, (age 48), who, according to Croatian news sources appears to have lived a discreet existence, operating an electrician business. 

Vladimir Đurkin (age 48), also Croatian.

and two Serbs, Dragan Mladenović (age 54) and Goran Perović (age 48).

Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac were arrested on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 in Zagreb, while Đurkin was brought in for questioning in Istria. Mladenović was initially apprehended near the Serb-Croatian border and detained in Croatian police custody, only to escape while in police custody via a bathroom window on November 8, 2018.  How this happened while he was in police custody has been subject to controversy. 

On the basis of their European arrest warrants, three of the Croatians, Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac were quickly transferred to Italy to stand trial. 

A month and a half after their arrest in Croatia, on December 23, 2019 Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac made their initial appearance in Italian court before preliminary investigations judge David Calabria and maintained their right to remain silent.  Vinko Tomic was represented by lawyers Guido Simonetti and Simone Zancani.  Zvonko Grgić was represented by lawyer Marina Ottaviani and Želimir Grbavac was represented by lawyer Mariarosa Cozza.  

Fighting his extradition, Vladimir Đurkin was finally transferred to the Italian authorities on February 8, 2019.  The presiding judge has ruled that all four defendants will remain in custody at the prison of Santa Maria Maggiore in Venice pending the outcome of their upcoming trial. 

Serbian Dragan Mladenović and the final identified accomplice, Goran Perović, are believed to be in Serbia where they are untouchable by a European Arrest Warrant, a Convention which governs extradition requests between the 28 member states that make up the European Union (EU).  With no agreement between Italy and Serbia on judicial cooperation, there seems little chance that these two remaining accomplices will be extradited to Italy to stand trial.

And His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani's jewels? 

International insurers Lloyd's of London has indemnified the Al Thani Foundation, as the owner of the stolen brooch and earrings and has payed out a claim of 8 million and 250 thousand dollars making the firm the owners of the jewellery, should they be recovered.  As a result the insurers will likely become a civil party in the future trial of the alleged perpetrators.

Unfortunately the "Treasures of Mughals and Maharajas" have never been found. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

September 6, 2018

Museum Theft Update: Doge’s Palace - Venice, Italy

Exhibition Hall, Sala dello Scrutinio, Doge's Palace, Venice
Image Credit: Palazzo Ducale
Eight months into the investigation, Italian news sites have begun reporting more details on the band of thieves believed to be behind the theft of part of the jewellry collection of Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani. The jewels were stolen from an alcove just off of the Sala della Scrutinio at the Palazzo Ducale during a brazen, broad daylight, robbery from the "Treasures of Mughals and Maharajas" exhibition on January 3rd.

Reconstructing the events surrounding the 10 am theft on the final day of the exhibition authorities have apparently discussed their hypothesis with one or more members of the Italian press. 
According to a report first published on Twitter by Mediaset Journalist Clemente Mimun, it is believed that the thieves may be members of a Croatian and Serbian criminal network which specialized in high value thefts, known to have commited other offenses in Italy and other countries.  No information is given in Mediaset's formal article several hours after Mimun's tweet, nor in La Repubblica's subsequent article as to why authorities believe the squad is made up of Serb and Croat nationals or indicating what information aside from general speculation would lead to this assumption.


During the January 3, 2018 incident, two thieves, one serving as lookout, wearing a buttoned sweater and a fisherman's beanie, and a second serving as principal actor, took a remarkable 20 seconds to open, then pocket a pair of teardrop diamond earrings and a heavy brooch made up of diamonds, rubies, gold, and platinum.


Given that the display case and its alarm failed to activate or activate in a timely manner when the glass case was breached, it is reasonable to assume that the pair of thieves might have had insider help.  Perhaps from someone either connected to the museum with knowledge of or access to the exhibitions alarm systems as they were expressly installed for this specific exhibit and in normal circumstances would have been expected to sound an alarm as soon as the display case was opened which would allow time for the perimeter to have been sealed.

Gone in a Bling

In the CCTV camera footage a clean-shaven man wearing a hooded puffer jacket and casual pants, sporting a traditional coppola style flat cap, can be seen at first viewing the jewels in several display cases at a leisurely pace, along with five other individuals, one of whom is believed to have served as a lookout.


Once the room clears of potential witnesses, the thief, working quickly and discreetly, but in full view of the CCTV camera, opens the glass door on the case and pockets the jewellry in the pocket of his jacket.  Afterwards the pair calmly blend back in with the rest of the museum's patrons, and casually exit the Doge's Palace before security has time to apprehend them. 

Given that the security for this event was specifically requested and installed as a condition of the exhibition of the Sheik's jewels, it is reasonable to believe that the culprits were practiced experts, perhaps those who also had advance knowledge of the Doge's security routine, and the timing it would take for security to react to their breach.

Whether or not Mediaset was referring to a network of jewel thieves known as "The Pink Panthers", an elusive gang of jewel thieves which is believed to have members from Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is unclear. This sometimes violent network of jewel thieves are believed to be responsible for more than 200 high value robberies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  For fifteen years this network of Balkan jewel thieves have committed audacious heists, sometimes by violent means as depicted in the real-life surveillance footage shown in the documentary “Smash and Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers.” 


As in the Venice heist Pink Panther thefts usually involve prior preparation and advanced skill, often casting nondescript individuals to case locations of potential robberies prior to their execution.  In one particularly dramatic theft on May 19, 2003 at Graff on New Bond Street in London a member of the group was able to make off with more than thirty million dollars’ worth of diamonds at in less than three minutes.

Whether or not the Doge's Palace Museum theft is related to the Pink Panthers is unclear, but should they be, they will likely benefit from the inventive perpetrators uncanny ability to fence traceable high-end goods. In the past law enforcement authorities have indicated that the Panther network consisted of between twenty and thirty experienced thieves at any given time, with facilitators in various cities providing logistical assistance.   Often, stolen diamonds end up in Antwerp as well as among the collections of indifferent clients in wealthy countries like Italy, France, Russia and Switzerland.



January 6, 2018

Diamonds are a thief's best friend: The stolen objects from Doge's Palace identified


The jewelry stolen during the Doge's Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale) robbery this week were modern compositions created by one of the foremost contemporary jewelry designers in the world.  Considered by some to be the world’s greatest living jeweller, the objects were created by the spectacularly gifted, Mumbai-based, artisan Viren Bhagat whose work has been characterised as a contemporary synthesis of traditional Mughal motifs and 1920s Cartier Art Deco.  

Bhagat comes from an artisan family who has been in the Indian jewelry business for more than one hundred years. He is one of only two contemporary jewelers, the second being Joel Arthur Rosenthal (JAR), whose works are included in Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani's extravagant collection of  more than 400 pieces of Indian jewelry and jeweled artifacts spanning four centuries. 

Bhagat produces only a small number of breathtaking pieces each year using only precious stones to stay true to the aesthetic of historic Indian jewelry.  Each of his designs are first pencil-sketched, then precisely produced.  All of his jewelry pieces are one of a kind originals and none of his jewelry is created on commission. 

What makes Bhagat popular with wealthy jewelry lovers worldwide (some 60 percent of his work is purchased outside of India) is his recognizably stylistic touches of western elegance in symmetry with eastern extravagance, making his pieces perfect for modern day maharajas.  

Given his recognition in the jewelry world some of his pieces reach well into seven figures. 

The pair of earrings stolen earlier this week from the Doge's Palace, pictured above, started with a simple, clear halo of asymmetrical flat-cut diamonds surrounding an eye-popping 30.2-carat nearly-colorless teardrop shape diamond mounted on a barely-there platinum setting.  


The stolen brooch-pendant features a 10.03-carat center diamond mined from the historic Golconda sultanate, surrounded by a double row of calibrated rubies and flat-cut diamond petals, the combination form the image of a Mogul lotus.  Below the centerpiece hangs a thirteen strand, proportioned tassel of diamond and ruby beads, a type of flourish occasionally found in Indian turban jewels. 

Described in the book Beyond Extravagance: A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels, edited by Amin Jaffer, the former international director of Asian art at Christie’s, and current curator of the Al-Thani collection, the back of the brooch is said to be covered in pavé diamonds, echoing the extravagant Indian tradition of decorating the reverse side of jewelry as well as the front. Not your everyday Bollywood bling. 

NOTE:  The SCO - the Central Operations Service of the Police (Italian: Servizio Centrale Operativo) and the Scientific Police (Italian: Polizia Scientifica) will be assisting the investigators of the local Mobile Squad on this investigation. 

January 5, 2018

15 seconds to open, plus 5 seconds to pocket

That's how long it took a thief, in full view of CCTV security cameras, to open a glass display case while an accomplice stood lookout.

You can see the CCTV footage released by the authorities below.


In the CCTV camera footage a clean-shaven man wearing a hooded puffer jacket and casual pants, sporting a traditional coppola style flat cap, can be seen viewing the jewels in several display cases at a leisurely pace, along with five other individuals.  Nearby, one of the five, his accomplice, wearing a buttoned sweater and a fisherman's beanie also pretends to be enjoying the exhibition. 

Four of the individuals, two with hats and two without, leave the space viewable by the security camera in one group after only giving passing glances to the objects on display in the exhibition room.  The man with the fisherman's beanie remains, feigning interest in the objects on display before he too moves out of view of the camera's range, standing as a lookout.  

In the next frame of images, after purposely walking towards the middle display, we can see the thief warily working the lock mechanism on the alarmed display case, possibly with some type of burglary tool, though the view of how he unlocks its glass door is blocked by his back, out of view of the camera.  Opening the case takes only 15 seconds.

Glancing back over his shoulder before and after he gains access to the interior of the case, the culprit then reaches in and deftly grabs the brooch and earrings, placing them quickly in his right pocket in just five seconds.  He then closes the glass door on the case and exits in the same direction as the four earlier individuals. 

It is not very clear whether or not the four other individuals pictured in the CCTV  footage had any role in the event.  Nor is it unusual for patrons to wear hats in Italian museums during bouts of colder weather.  What is clear, though, is that hats used as disguises can be quickly removed and hooded puffer jackets can be flipped up or discarded with ease, allowing the thief and his accomplice to rapidly change their appearance, making them less identifiable.

This change-up can be seen in the footage stills taken of the two suspects.



In the top image, the lookout has donned a red puffer jacket which now covers or has replaced his earlier buttoned sweater.  


As the pair depart, the lookout exits with his hands stuffed in his pockets while the man who removed the objects from the case inside the Doge's Palace now has his hands free and appears to be talking on his cell phone. 

January 3, 2018

Museum Theft: Doge’s Palace - Venice, Italy


Shortly after 10 am this morning, on the last day of an exhibition at the Doge’s Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale), once the heart of the political life and public administration at the time of the Venetian Republic, jewel thieves broke into a display case and absconded with pieces of jewelry on temporary display in Venice.

Promoted by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, the exhibition was curated by Amin Jaffer, Senior Curator of the private collection, and Gian Carlo Calza, a distinguished Italian scholar of East Asian art.  The exhibition, titled "Treasures of the Mughals and Maharaja" brought together 270+ pieces of Indian jewelry, covering four centuries of India's heritage, owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, CEO of Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company (QIPCO), the Qatari mega-holding company.  

Sheikh Al-Thani is the first cousin of Qatar's Emir, and began acquiring pieces for his now-extensive jewelry collection after visiting an exhibition of Indian art in 2009 at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.


Some of the bejeweled pieces on display at the Doge's Palace included encrusted jewelry with diamonds, rubies, jade, pearls and emeralds, once owned by India's great maharajas, nizams and emperors.  Founded by Babur after his conquest of much of Northern India, the pieces from the Mughal dynasty date from the early 16th century to the mid 18th century, one of India's most opulent eras in jewelry composition.  

Additional pieces from the collection were created during the politically chaotic 18th century and from the British Raj period in the 19th century and were produced to appeal to wealthy British travelers and India's upper caste.  The collector's more extravagant contemporary objects on display include a necklace commissioned in 1937 by Maharaja Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar and made by Jacques Cartier, which is said to rival the ruby and diamond necklace of Empress Marie-Louise which is part of the Crown Jewels of France.

The Al-Thani collection brings together and regroups pieces from many former Indian treasuries, some of which emphasize beliefs of the period.

In India, the nine stones of the Navaratna (Sanskrit: नवरत्न) where nava stands for nine and ratna for jewel, are considered to be auspicious, and in Vedic texts and Indian Astrology were believed to have the power to protect the wearer.

These jewels are:

Blue sapphire (niilam)
Cat's Eye (vaidooryam)
Diamond (vajram)
Emerald (marathakam)
Hessonite (gomeda)
Pearl (muktaaphalam)
Red Coral (vidrumam)
Ruby (maanikyam)
Yellow sapphire (pushparajam)

Often the gems were set in pure gold, using a gemstone setting art form known as Kundan, a method of gem setting, that consist of inserting a gold foil between the stones which does not require soldering or claw mounts. 


Former V&A curator Dr. Amin Jaffer is said to have begun advising Sheik Hamad on his acquisitions, after becoming the international director of Asian art at Christie’s.  In 2017, after ten years with the auction house, Jaffer resigned to take the position of Chief Curator of the Al-Thani's collection.

Ripped from the pages of an Oceans 8 Hollywood Script

According to current reconstruction of the incident using cameras surveillance footage, two thieves, one serving as lookout and a second culprit who actively broke into a display case located in the Sala dello Scrutinio, quickly made off with one brooch and  a pair of earrings. As soon as the display case was breachedsounding an alarm, the pair deftly escaped through the crowded museum gallery, blending in among the patrons and were out of the museum before security could seal the museum's perimeter to apprehend them.

Exhibition Hall, Sala dello Scrutinio, Doge's Palace, Venice
Image Credit: Palazzo Ducale
Immediately after the theft, the Sala dello Scrutinio was closed pending a complete inventory and review of surveillance footage.   

At the present time, photographs of the pieces stolen during the robbery have not been released by the authorities or by Al-Thani. In a statement given by the Venice city police commissioner Vito Gagliardi, the stolen jewelry included diamonds, gold and platinum, had been assigned a customs value of just 30,000 euros ($36,084), but are likely worth “a few million euros.”  

Selling hot goods

While diamonds may be a girl's best friend, buying stolen gemstones is a serious crime.  Without a certificate of authenticity which proves a diamond adheres to the KCPS, or Kimberly Process Certification Scheme showing that the gem does not originate from a "blood zone" tainted by human rights abuses, finding a buyer who will purchase an unprovenanced jewel of skeptical origin can be difficult.

Individuals caught trading in stolen or "blood diamonds" face significant legal ramifications and buying unprovenanced jewels poses great economic risk for jewelers, pawn shops, diamond and gem traders and cutters, and anyone else who might come into contact with a newly stolen and possibly well documented stolen gemstone.

Even if the Venice gem thieves were able to successful sell their newly stolen loot, they will likely do so with only a modicum of success. While big-time professional jewel thieves may have black market connections that allow them to sell substantial pieces for hefty sums, most implus thieves have to settle for intermediary fences which pay nowhere near what the gems in the necklace may actually be worth, financially or historically.

By:  Lynda Albertson

July 6, 2014

Sunday, July 06, 2014 - ,, No comments

Jewel Heist Anniversary: The Irish Crown Jewels Stolen from a safe in Dublin Castle on January 6, 1907

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here's an article ("Hunt for stolen crown jewels failed to solve great mystery") filed last year by Ralph Riegel in The Irish Independent about the unsolved theft of Ireland's 'crown jewels' stolen almost a century ago (today's date marks not the date of the actual theft but the date of discovery of the loss).
... The gems were stolen from a safe in Dublin Castle on July 6, 1907, in arguably Ireland's most famous robbery... The gems, valued in 1983 at over IR£2m, have a current value of around €14m. They were donated to Ireland by King William IV in 1830 to be used on ceremonial occasions by the Order of St Patrick. They were stored in a special safe in the library of the Office of Arms in the Bedford Tower of Dublin Castle. However, the safe was not installed in a special strong room because the room was accidentally constructed with too narrow an entrance to allow it to be fitted. The gems were dramatically stolen in 1907 just days before King Edward VII was due to begin a state visit to Dublin. The theft was hugely embarrassing, both for the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Castle authorities, because King Edward was due to invest Lord Castletown as a knight in the Order of St Patrick. Even more embarrassing was the fact that the Dublin detective headquarters was located barely 100 yards away. ...
 From the National Archives is a description of the jewels:
The regalia of the Order of St Patrick – the so-called “Crown Jewels” were kept in the Office of Arms in the Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle. The jewels consisted of the insignia of the Grand Master of the Order of St Patrick (the Lord Lieutenant) and the collars and badges of the Knights of St Patrick. The insignia of the Grand Master comprised a star and a badge. The jewels forming the star consisted of Brazilian diamonds with eight star-points with a central shamrock made of emeralds and a cross of rubies in the centre on a background of blue enamel. The badge also had emerald shamrocks and a ruby cross surrounded by blue enamel and rose diamonds and within Brazilian diamonds. The jewels been the property of Queen Charlotte, then of King George IV and finally of King William IV. This king thought that they would form fine ceremonial decorations for the Order of St Patrick and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to wear on ceremonial occasions and so he presented them to the Order in 1830. In 1907, these jewels were valued at £33,000.
You can read the National Archives' "The Theft of the Irish 'Crown Jewels'" for more details.

In 2008, Francis Shackleton Jr.'s name came forward as the prime suspect in the theft.

October 23, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - ,,, No comments

Viking jewels stolen from archaeological museum in Sweden

by A. M. C. Knutsson

The Historical Museum in Lund was struck by a theft in the early hours of Tuesday morning. 02.47 the alarm went off and when the police arrived at 02.52 the thief was already gone. The culprit was traced as far as Lund cathedral to which he had made his way on foot. The vicious rain had rinsed away any further trace and it is uncertain whether he continued from the location by car. [1] One man was caught on CCTV but the police has not excluded the possibility that he was working with others. [2] Detective Chief Inspector Stephan Söderholm of the Lund police has said that the thief knew exactly what he was after. In only a minute and a half the man managed to remove the ballistic glass from a window on the ground floor, enter and break open a display case with 8 mm thick Plexiglas, remove half of the display and disappear.[3] The Chief of Security at the Museum, Per Gustafson, exclaimed that even though he is unsure exactly what was taken, a complete inventory will not be possible until the police have finished their investigations -- it appears that the most valuable items were left behind but a significant amount was damaged.[4] Meanwhile, a local newspaper has reported that the man escaped with gold jewelry from the archaeological site of Uppåkra.[5]

The site of Uppåkra, is one of the richest archaeological sites in Sweden. More than 20,000 objects were found when the site was excavated a few years ago. Artifacts of bone, bronze, silver and gold were recovered. Uppåkra is a rare site, giving an insight into the life of the Scandinavian region prior to the period commonly considered the Viking Age. Traces have been found of kings, priestesses, and warriors, Roman as well as Hun. The site was active from 200 AD until around 1000 AD and is unique in Sweden. The first excavations were conducted in the 1930s but not until the 21th century were serious efforts made to excavate the sites. [6]

Söderholm has indicated that professional criminals might have conducted the break-in. He has said that the items might have been stolen in order to sell them on to a collector, or the gold itself might have been the temptation. A professional break-in would indicate the former. [7] This was the first theft in the Sweden’s second largest archaeological museum since the 1950s.[8] Per Gustafson told Tidningarnas Telegrambyra that "People will do whatever it takes to get what they want these days. That is the world we live in."[9]

Sources:
Thomas Lindblad, http://www.alltomvetenskap.se/nyheter/sveriges-rikaste-fyndplats, accessed 22 Oct 2013;
Joakim Stierna - http://www.skanskan.se/article/20131022/LUND/131029851/1012/-/vikingsmycken-stals-fran-museum, accessed 22 October 2013;
http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/inbrott-pa-historiska-museet-i-lund/, accessed 22 Oct 2013;
http://www.thelocal.se/50936/20131022/, accessed 22 Oct 2013

[1] Joakim Stierna - http://www.skanskan.se/article/20131022/LUND/131029851/1012/-/vikingsmycken-stals-fran-museum, accessed 22 October 2013
[2] Joakim Stierna – skanskan.se
[3] Joakim Stierna – skanskan.se
[4] http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/inbrott-pa-historiska-museet-i-lund/, accessed 22 Oct 2013
[5] Joakim Stierna – skanskan.se
[6] Thomas Lindblad, http://www.alltomvetenskap.se/nyheter/sveriges-rikaste-fyndplats , accessed 22 Oct 2013
[7] Joakim Stierna – skanskan.se
[8] http://www.thelocal.se/50936/20131022/, accessed 22 Oct 2013
[9] thelocal.se

July 29, 2013

Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, The Netherlands: "Bling bling" museum theft and religious art

by Jacobiene Kuijpers, ARCA 2013 Student

On 29 January of 2013 at half past two in the afternoon, two young men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas drove on a moped in the city centre of Utrecht in the Netherlands. They stopped in front of the Museum Catharijneconvent, the national museum of religious art housed in a former cloister. One of the men walked towards a glass side door of the museum then smashed the door several times with a hammer until the security glass broke. The flight of stairs towards the ‘treasure room’ was right in front of him and he ran down them, focusing his attention immediately on a gold plated silver beam-monstrance adorned with numerous diamond elements and other precious stones insured at €250,000.[1] The glass case in which the vitrine was placed was not as stable as the thief thought. When trying to smash it with his hammer, he knocked over the entire base. As the entire vitrine including the object hit the floor, the glass shattered and the thief gathered the pieces of the object, putting parts of it in his too small bag and the rest under his arm and ran back up. The thief appeared clumsy, dropping the piece and picking it back up while crouching trough the glass door he smashed on his way in. [2] His conspirator was waiting for him on the same spot so he ran to the moped to take off. Before he could leave the courtyard, museum guards caught up with him and after a short wrestle they managed to confiscate the bag, which held some pieces of the monstrance. The thieves drove away with the rest, it took them less then two minutes to steal (part of) the monstrance.

The police managed to find the moped in the neighbourhood, the thieves must have had a get-away car either parked in the area or picking them up, suggesting the involvement of a third person. The moped turned out to have been stolen in Germany. During the police investigation it became known that the pieces of the monstrance in the bag that was saved by the museum guards were the most valuable, it held all of the precious stones. This was presented in Dutch media on 13 February, together with the CCTV footage. A police spokesman mentioned that the object held by the thieves was as good as worthless on the open market. The piece was incomplete and the value of the gold and silver after melting the object would hardly weigh up to the costs. The insurance company of the museum installed a reward for the tip that would lead to the return of the monstrance. That same evening the police managed to arrest three men of 21, 25 and 35 years old. They were seen placing the monstrance wrapped in plastic in a car, the police followed the car and halted it on the highway towards Belgium. The monstrance was returned to the museum, some of the adornments were missing and it was damaged. After restoration it was back on display in the museum in May. The prosecution of the three men is still in process.

Looking at circumstantial events learns that there was a theft of another monstrance from a Dutch museum a year earlier, which could have served as an example to the thieves in this case.[3] Last year, the thieves in the Museum Gouda got away with their monstrance in 30 seconds and were not prosecuted, suggesting it is an easy and fast way to make money, motivating the Utrecht thieves and giving them a suitable target, the monstrance. After the Museum Gouda theft, the Dutch media mentioned that the monstrance is worth much more than any thief can make by selling the raw materials. This statement claims that the thieves were possibly going to melt the monstrance and sell the gold and precious stones, it provides a motive for thieves.  Harvesting the raw materials of the monstrance would be easy to do for the thieves, and it is not hard or dangerous for them to cash in on, as opposed to trying to sell the object. The media may have instructed thieves on how to do an ‘easy’ crime and should perhaps have been more careful with the information they disclose and the possible consequences.

[1] A detailed description of the object and the ‘schatkamer’; the room in which the piece was exhibited, can be found on the website of the Museum Catharijne Convent.
[2] The review of the theft is made based on newspaper articles and the above cited description on the museum website as well as the footage of the security cameras.

April 6, 2013

Saturday, April 06, 2013 - ,, No comments

Easter Theft at the Villa Giulia: Reports from online publications in Italian

Almost one week after thieves robbed the Villa Giulia in Rome and stolen jewelry, this is what information has been published online in Italian (indirectly quoted from translated material):


Il Giornale dell'Arte.com reported that at least ten gold necklaces with emeralds, pearls, and rubies from the 19th century Castellani Collection were stolen on Easter weekend when thieves smashed the display cases on the floor above the entrance to the museum. Police are investigating if there could have been inside help as the 112 alarm (Italy's version of 911) didn't go off immediately. 
The pieces may have been selected as a "theft by commission" or because it might be easier to remove the precious stones and resell these piece on the market as the Etruscan one's are well documented and these less so.
For now investigators are focusing on the the entry point downstairs, an assessment of the 50 or so staff associated with the museum's surveillance, and with reviewing tapes CCTV tapes both during the theft and in the days preceding the assault in the hopes that perhaps the assailants cased the museum in the days preceding the event passing themselves off as visitors.
Corriere della Sera reported that the Carabinieri are still waiting for a formal inventory of the stolen pieces and that other objects were damaged when the casing was smashed.
Given the execution of the event, law enforcement is placing a higher focus on the statements of the various staff responsible for the museums security watch to look for irregularities or contradictions of their recollection of the events as they occurred during the theft.
There is also speculation as to if the smoke was used to possible create a diversionary fire, create a smokescreen to hide the thieves movements or to perhaps signal their pick-up at the completion of the theft.
Law enforcement are also investigating other thefts of local residences in the area to look for similarities.
Libero Quotidiano reported that the Regional Association of Roman Goldsmiths, in cooperation with the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, has been working on a project that to document the complexity of the Castellani Collection in relation to historic archaeological finds in jewelry making and 19th century recreations and creativity. Part of the project involved preparations for a traveling exhibition that highlighted the School Castellani Goldsmiths in relation to previous Roman and Etruscan jewelry, with an emphasis on how these original styles were/are being utilized in contemporary jewelry. 


As first reported in La Repubblica on March 31, Easter Sunday:
The thieves arrived from the back of the museum. At 11.30 p.m. Saturday, March 30, thieves locked the guards in the gatehouse, went upstairs to the Hall of Gold, smashed three display cases, and stole jewelry collected by the Castellani family in the 19th century. The thieves used a smoke bomb to obscure images on the surveillance camera.
Neither the police nor the museum have identified which items were taken although one government official says that the items were not from the valuable archaeological collection of the National Etruscan Museum. The extent of the theft was limited by the appearance of the police who were alerted by the guards. Officials are reviewing footage from the CCTV cameras.

Daniele Particelli writing for Crimeblog.it on March 31:
Thieves launched tear gas to obscure the surveillance cameras as they entered the museum.
An alarm system was triggered when the first display case was smashed in the Hall of Gold; two guards had alerted the police whose arrival reduced the thieves time to grab objects.
Roma Daily News published on April 2:
Police investigators are reviewing hours of surveillance tape, looking for suspects who may have visited the Etruscan museum in the days leading up to the theft. The number of thieves is identified as three. The thieves used plastic ties to obstruct access to the gates surrounding the museum grounds.

April 2, 2013

Theft at the Villa Giulia, Rome: Background on the The Jewellery in the Augusto Castellani Collection

The Castellani Collection is located on the site
plan in the dark green (one half circle and
 another rectangle) above the entrance.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The Short Guide to The Villa Giulia National Etruscan Museum (second reprint 2008) includes a description of the jewellery in the Augusto Castellani Collection.

The article dated March 31 in La Repubblica reporting the theft at the Villa Giulia last Saturday night did not identify the items stolen.

The Collection Castellani is described as being in Room 19 (half circle) and Room 20 (smaller rectangle) on the upper floor above the entrance to the Villa Giulia. The Short Guide places the jewellery in Room 20.

The Castellani jewellery collection at the Villa Giulia includes 'ancient articles in gold along with the "modern" pieces produced over the years by the Castellani goldsmiths."

The collection was assembled in the latter half of the 19th century - a time when intensive and indeed fruitful excavations were being carried out on the great sites of Etruria and Latium - thanks to the enthusiastic initiative of the family progenitor, Fortunato Pio. This friend and disciple of Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta, began to collect antiquities "to replace in our city of Rome what the Pope sold to France in 1860".
The archaeological gold objects include a 'splendid pectoral in gold and amber' and 'three finely-wrought figured pendants in amber' from the early 7th century BC Galeassi tomb discovered in Palestrina in 1861. A necklace with miniature amphora pendants (Castellani reconstruction from two necklaces of similar typology, style and chronology) is from Tarquinia in the 4th century BC.

June 27, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011 - , No comments

Carabinieri recover several important pieces of the Eva Peron jewelry collection

by René M. Du Terroil, ARCA Contributor

The Italian media reported last week finding jewels allegedly belonging to deceased Argentine former first lady Eva Peron.  The jewelry is worth over US$9 million and was found in a hotel in Milan in Northern Italy. According to reports, local police located the jewels in a joint operation with Spanish police.  Police sources report that the precious stones where recovered from a 2009 robbery to a jewelry store in Valencia carried out by a gipsy gang. One person has been detained so far.

A tiara, a gift from the Dutch king during the 1950’s, several rings and a pair o earrings were among the jewelry recovered by the Carabinieri police in a room of the luxurious Silver hotel in the outskirts of Milan. According to the police, seven Serb gypsies were responsible for the robbery. The jewelry was taken in December of 2009. One of the robbers was arrested in May of last year after the Spanish court extended the arrest warrant to all Europe.

The English-language press (copied in after the links to the story) inaccurately reported many of the facts.

The pieces were stolen from a Spanish jeweler in what is known as a "rip" where a jeweler is offered an exaggerated price for his merchandise with the proviso that he perform some type of under-the-table cash deal. This initial exchange goes through flawlessly, at considerable profit for the mark. Some time later the scammers approach the mark with a similar proposition, but for a larger amount of money (and thus a larger return for the mark). His confidence and greed inspired by the previous deal, the merchant agrees — only to have his money and goods taken, by sleight-of-hand or violence, at the point of exchange.

The Carabinieri and Spanish police had been working together for some time, and phone taps and Interpol were involved. Although 8 members of the gang were identified and arrest warrants issued, only one was apprehended in the Milan hotel. Several of the others were already arrested in Spain.  The jewels were recovered when the suspect left his hotel room and he was arrested later. Apparently many of the Serbian - Gypsy/Romanian families engaged in this activity live in the area.