Heist films have always been popular, and for good reason – there’s nothing more exciting than the thrill of a heist.
While none of us like to think too much about thieves snatching our jewellery, it can sometimes be fun to have a look at some real-life jewellery heists that seem made for the silver screen.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at three supersized jewellery heists.
The Harry Winston Heist – Total Take: £85 million
Renowned jewellers, the Harry Winston brand is known to carry some of the world’s most fabulous gemstone rings and other fine pieces. Their Paris store, perhaps the epitome of glamour, was hit in 2008 by a very organised group, taking an estimated £85 million in watches and jewellery.
These thieves, believed to be a part of the infamous, international heist group – The Pink Panthers – arrived at the Harry Winston store, appearing to the world to be wealthy, well-dressed ladies, the usual clientele for the store. It was revealed after the fact that these ladies were in fact men in disguise, whether they were hoping to appear more like the standard customers of the shop, or perhaps just indulging in a hobby on the job is unclear. Once inside the store, the thieves took their guns from their pockets and ushered the customers and the staff into close confines. Well-organised, the thieves knew the locations of the safes and in less than twenty minutes, they left the shop with all manner of luxury items that were never recovered.
The Antwerp Diamond Heist – Total Take: £93 million
Earning the title of ‘heist of the century’, this 2003 robbery was one of the largest in history. Over the course of two days, a team of five men stole diamond jewellery from one of the most secure vaults in the world. Infrared heat detection, seismic sensors, magnetic fields, and doppler radars were among the many security measures involved in the vault. In order to pull off this epic heist, the ringleader of the thieves, Leonardo Notarbartolo, rented an office across the road from the Antwerp Diamond Centre for years in order to examine the comings and goings of the centre. Notarbartolo used the cover of pretending to be a diamond merchant in order to frequently visit the centre. This allowed him to covertly take pictures using a camera pen and thoroughly plan the execution of the heist. Most of the stolen diamonds remain unrecovered, though Notarbartolo himself was arrested.
The Carlton Hotel Heist – Total Take: £108 million
Not only did this final heist have the highest take, it was also executed by a single individual. One man in a bandana and a baseball cap was able to take advantage of the hotel’s lax security and walk away with millions. Diamonds and jewellery belonging to Lev Leviev was on exhibition on the ground floor of the hotel. The perpetrator of this crime has never been confirmed, nor have the diamonds been recovered. Suspicion has been placed on various members of the Pink Panthers, as is often the case when it comes to jewellery heists of this magnitude. The truth is, we’ll likely never know who committed this crime, and the items stolen may never see the light of day again. Hitchcock aficionados may recognise the Carlton Hotel as the filming location for the 1955 film ‘To Catch a Thief’. Whether or not this the criminal’s idea of a joke will never come to light, sadly.
Jewellery will always be a valuable asset, and people will always attempt to do away with something sparkling. It’s exciting on the big screen, but in reality, it can certainly create a scare. It reminds us all to keep our valuables secure, the for sure!
Bethany Massey – Digital Assistant (Content Creator)
Having graduated university with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing Bethany then joined the AC Silver team as a content creator. Bethany spends her days writing content for the AC Silver blog and other luxury goods/antique blogs.