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Jewellery Heists in December

With so much activity in the shops throughout the festive season, it might surprise you to learn that December has in the past proven a chosen month for jewellery heists.  We take a moment to reflect on two notable raids which have taken place, with those involved going to extraordinary lengths to ensure everything goes to plan.

Harry Winston Jewellery Store – Paris

In December 2008, Harry Winston’s Parisian store located on the Avenue Montaigne, an area associated with the rich and famous, hit the headlines after being targeted by four armed robbers, in what was deemed one of the biggest ever heists.

Disguised as women, the gang members entered the store in the early evening around 5.30pm, and were initially unnoticed by in-store security guards.  During the armed raid which then took place, priceless items of jewellery were stolen, with the majority of the display pieces removed from the store.  Rings, necklaces and luxury watches featuring precious stones of the highest quality which Harry Winston is renowned for were taken, and the haul was said to be worth in the region of £70m.  The gang also had a detailed knowledge of the store and were able to locate and empty 2 further secret storage cases before leaving the premises, with the whole event taking minutes to complete.

It was believed that the gang were members of an international network responsible for some of the biggest raids in the world, referred to by Interpol as Pink Panthers.  Following several arrests, in March 2011 French Police recovered a number of the stolen items at a house in Seine-Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb.  The pieces worth approx. £17m, £12m the price tag for just one pair of earrings, were sealed a container within a concrete block and hidden in a drain.  Over 80% of the stolen items were eventually recovered from the Harry Winston heist, although this store and many of those designer names located on the Avenue Montaigne have unfortunately experienced further robberies.

Museon, The Hague

Based in the Netherlands, the Museon houses many collections from archaeology, through to science, technology and geology. The idea of Frits van Paasschen, the Museon was originally built to provide children with a place to learn more about the world around them.  In October 2002 the Museon hosted a special exhibition with the subject being The Diamond – From Rough Stone to Gem.  The exhibition gave visitors an insight into the mining, cutting and mounting of gemstones, and guidance on assessing stones and identifying fakes.

The exhibition featured many of the finest pieces from collections owned by individuals as well as institutions and even Royalty.  In is not known whether the raid took place on the 1st or 2nd of December 2002 as amazingly the theft went unnoticed for a day with the Museon closed on Mondays.  The thieves broke a window to gain access to the building, however despite extensive security in place, this remained undetected by the guards and the CCTV cameras.  Those conducting the robbery managed to access 6 of the display cabinets and remove many items including tiaras, necklaces and precious gemstones, without setting off any alarms or activating the infrared sensors that were in place. Also included in the items stolen were pieces of art-deco design by Steltman, jewellers based in The Hague.  Given the rarity of many of the items taken, it proved difficult to put a value on the haul.  Planned to the last detail, the flawless heist ensured that the only evidence left behind was the broken window and empty display cabinets.  No links could be made between the staff and the robbery, and the whereabouts of the stolen jewellery and those responsible remains a mystery.

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