There are magnificent jewels that are famous for their rarity, or their size, or their beauty. Some gain notoriety for their origin or better yet their provenance. Then there are those that hold us spellbound for all of the above - and more.
Such is the back story of the famed Star of India cabochon star sapphire mined from Sri Lanka. This 563.35 carat grayish-blue star corundum was graded near perfect, and is one of the world’s largest blue star sapphires in the world.
An Outstanding Collection
Rewind to 1900. Renowned industrialized J.P. Morgan, a dedicated gemstone collector, commissioned Tiffany’s highly regarded gemologist George Frederick Kunz to help assemble a world class collection of the finest mineral specimens. This would be displayed at the American Museum of Natural History (which he founded) on New York City’s upper west side.
The Star of India held court amongst a veritable treasure trove of other rare gemstones in the museum. But on a balmy October night in 1964, it also became the kingpin of a spectacularly brazen jewel heist. At the time, the hoard of jewels pilfered from the Museum by a trio of Miami jewel thieves was valued at approximately $400K. In today’s value, that works out to about $3M. Other spectacular stones of note in the heist were the 100.32-ct dazzling de Long Star Ruby and the 16.25-ct Eagle Diamond discovered in Eagle, Wisconsin.
How it’s Done
Turns out, this ‘jewel heist of the century’ as it was called wasn’t all that tough of a caper. The young trio cased out the joint the night before only to be delighted with the discovery that the museum’s alarm system was kaput. Added to this fortuitous finding was the fact that the museum staff usually kept a second story window open at night for ventilation. As it happened in this perfect storm, the museum guards were lax in making their rounds that night too.
The youthful robbers high-tailed it back to the sandy shores of Miami Beach toute de suite. But they couldn’t resist bragging about their conquest and partying like it was 1964. Converting some of the jewels into cash immediately was the source of their undoing. They started throwing around money like they never earned it which caused eyebrows to raise and police to descend.
Where are They Now?
In just a few days, the Miami Police apprehended the fellows. Of the 2 dozen jewels taken in the museum theft, only 10 of the most valuable were ever recovered. The others, it seems are still on the lam.