Feel like the rug is being pulled out from under you? It happens when the DOW takes a tumble – OK a plunge! In honor of that ‘not so swell’ feeling of loss, we thought we’d take a look at some of the fabulous gems that have been stolen over the ages. The good news? Each and every one of them were returned to their rightful owners. Let’s hope the same can be said for our 401ks!
The Millennium Star
In 2000, police foiled a plan to steal the 203-ct. flawless pear-shaped Millennium Star diamond and 11 other rare blue diamonds, including the 27.64-ct. blue Heart of Eternity diamond from London’s Millennium Dome. In a scene right out of the James Bond movie “The World is Not Enough,” the robbers planned to make their getaway via a speedboat on the nearby Thames River. But police, acting on a tip given several weeks ago, had prepared for the theft and had officers stationed around the Millennium Dome dressed as members of the cleaning staff carrying weapons in their refuse bags. Some 100 officers lay in wait as a gang attempted to use a mechanical digger to steal the gems valued at £350 million. The robbers only managed to damage the glass display case, however, as the police swapped the jewels for worthless copies.
This fabled 105.60 ct. stone goes back to the 1300s, when it was owned by India’s Rajah of Malwa. Following a series of wars, it fell into the hands of Sultan Babur in the 1500s and remained one of the most precious gems of the Mongul Emperors for the next 200 years. In 1739, the stone was obtained by Nadir Shah of Persia, who had invaded Delhi. Legend has it that Nadir Shah, failing to uncover the gem during his pillage of Delhi, was told by one of the harem women that the conquered Mongul emperor hid it inside his turban. Taking advantage of an Oriental custom, Nadir Shah invited the vanquished emperor to a feast and suggested they exchange turbans. After the feast, he unrolled the turban and found the gem, which he took back to Persia.
Black Prince’s Ruby
Perhaps the world’s most famous ‘ruby’, this stone is actually a red spinel that is part of the British Crown Jewels, mounted in the Imperial Crown. The stone first surfaced in fourteenth century Spain. It was seized by Don Pedro the Cruel of Seville from Abu Said in 1366. After changing through numerous hands over the next few centuries, it was bought by an unknown party in 1660 and resold to Charles II after the restoration of the Stuarts. During the reign of Charles II, the gem was nearly stolen by the notorious Colonel Blood, who was later pardoned by the King.
The Regent Diamond
The Regent is one of the world’s finest diamonds and has a long, well documented and interesting history complete with murder, revolution and theft.
In the rough, the diamond weighed 410 carats. It was found in India in the 17th century and smuggled to the coast hidden under the bandages covering a self inflicted wound. The finder was murdered by an English sea captain, who sold the diamond for $5,000 to a Iranian trader. In 1702, the diamond was sold to Thomas Pitt, Governor of Madras for about $100,000. Pitt sent it home to England where it was cut into a cushion shaped brilliant weighing 140.5 carats. The stone then became known as the Pitt. In 1717, Pitt sold the gem to Philippe, duke of Orleans and regent of France. It was worn in the crown of Louis XV at his coronation in 1722, and was frequently worn by Marie Antoinette two generations later.
In 1792, the diamond was stolen together with the French Blue and other French crown jewels. Unlike many others, it was quickly recovered. It was given as security for a war loan in 1797 but redeemed five years later.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor of France in 1804, he carried the great diamond in the hilt of his sword. His second wife, Marie Louise, took it to Austria after the fall of Napoleon, but the jewel was later returned by the Austrian emperor. Charles X wore the Regent at his coronation in 1825, and it remained in this crown until placed in a diadem for the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.
In 1887, all of the French crown jewels except the Regent were sold at auction. The Regent was put on exhibition at the Louvre. Except for a short time during the Second World War when it was hidden behind a stone panel at the Chateau du Chambord, it remains at the Louvre.
In 1607, the East India Co. seized the stone from the owner, Persian Prince Rahab, in payment for his debts. It then disappeared for 300 years and was rediscoverd in 1906 in the possesion of Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey as the eye of a sacred idol in the Temple of Benghazi. Legend has that it was given as a ransom for the Princess Rasheetah by the Sheik of Kashmir to the Sultan of Turkey who had abducted her. Again, after being stolen from the Sultan’s messenger and sold to a Paris pawnshop, it was purchased by a Spanish grandee and remained in a safe-deposit box vault in London for several years.