The Five Most Notorious Jewelry Heists in History


The Five Most Notorious Jewelry Heists in History

While jewelry is one of the most beautiful treasures of the earth prized by humans, they have also been a luring asset that criminals hungrily hunted. Because jewelry could be easily transported, melted, and sold in the black market, that is why you will be surprised to find so many thrilling but infamous jewelry heists in history all around the world.


London: The Millennium Dome

Back in the year 2000 on the 7th November, a James Bond-style heist took place in the 02 Arena, which at the time was called the Millennium Dome.  The thieves seemed to have had everything in plan, wearing gas masks, using an excavator to break into the outside fence, and having a speedboat escape plan in place after having plundered the 203-carat Millennium Star Diamond and 12 blue diamonds part of a De Beers Diamond exhibition. Little did they know that the police, who’d had an earlier forewarning of this plan, outwitted them, and were already inside when the criminals threw tear gas at the entrance to prevent anyone from entering. The police were dressed as cleaning staff, had replaced the gems with fakes and were ready to arrest the thieves, preventing a massive heist of diamonds worth £350 million!


Belgium: Antwerp Diamond Centre

This is an interesting one! On the 15th February 2003, 123 deposit boxes at the Antwerp Diamond Center that were filled with loose diamonds, gold and jewelry were found vacant and dumped on the floor. It was later discovered that this heist, that was then labeled “the heist of the century,” was planned four years in advance. Mastermind, Leonardo Notarbartolo, who was one of the thieves, had rented an office space across the street from the building of the Diamond Center, posing as an Italian diamond merchant, and over the course of four years, carefully studied the details of security and alarm system, until he eventually gained access to the keys of the vault. After successfully running off with the loot worth £93 million, most of the members of the gang were caught behind bars after one of the thieves left a half-eaten salami sandwich at the crime scene, leading to a DNA match.


Paris: Harry Winston Store

The Pink Panthers, clearly a shrewd group who diligently spent months, and sometimes years devising heists down to the most intricate of details are found to successfully hoard unimaginable numbers throughout history. On the 4th December 2008, the Pink Panthers were found to be behind one of France’s greatest jewelry thefts. Their tactics each time displayed more and more creativity, making their thefts successful. This time, the male robbers entered into the Harry Winston Store in Paris as seemingly chic, stylish ladies, wearing wigs and female clothing. As they approached the showroom, they pulled out their handguns, cornering the frightened staff and customers as the rest of the gang stripped the store of all the expensive necklaces, rings, watches and top-secret safes in 20 minutes. The stolen jewelry, worth £85 million, was never seen after that day.


Cannes: The Carlton Hotel

During the weekend of the Cannes Film Festival, on the 28th July 2013, a major heist of £108 million took place at the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel, a targeted site for repeated jewelry burglaries over the years. The burglar, a member of the renowned jewel thieves gang dubbed the Pink Panthers walked into the hotel’s poorly guarded exhibition room entrance, wearing a cap and bandana. He was directed towards the invaluable jewels that were on show belonging to Lev Leviev, an Israeli billionaire. Walking casually with a handgun threatening to shoot exhibitors and guests, the thief was able to make his way past the unarmed security, hoisting a sack of 72 jewels, tossing them into a suitcase, and walking away.


Germany: The Green Vault Museum

On the 25th November 2019, a group of cunning thieves broke into Dresden’s Green Vault Museum, gaining access by smashing the glass to enter the building after removing part of an iron railing on the ground floor. After furtively disabling the museum’s alarm, they hoarded jewelry and precious stones worth about £855 million. Among the things they took were diamond encrusted swords and intricately designed brooches. Later that morning a car was found burning in Dresden, deemed to be the car used by the group of thieves who until now are on the run.


One thought that heists like these only happened in Hollywood movies, but these are only a small sample of the numerous heists that took place in real life. What we do learn is that, these heists require more than just a couple of hours of planning, they can take patient months or even years to be carefully orchestrated.