Recently in the news there have been many stories of Jewelry thefts. In 2017 on the BBC world news was the story of how thieves had tunnelled through several feet of reinforced concrete to get into a safety deposit used by many of the top antique jewelry dealers based in London, and even though most of the gang were apprehended much of the antique jewelry is still missing.
Shortly after that it was widely reported that several millions of dollars worth of jewelry was stolen from Kim Kardashian while staying in Paris. French police believed it was an inside job, and again many of the gang were apprehended, but also again much of the jewelry as yet has not been recovered.
Also just recently in the news was the reporting of the robbery in Germany at Dresden's Green Vault Museum, where as the news reported it 'a priceless collection of antique, eighteenth century jewelry and gemstones including sapphires and rubies were stolen in a matter of minutes, there were two robber's, and as yet they remain at large.'
Even here at Chicago, at one of the Merchandise Mart Antique Jewelry shows, not so long ago there was the report of the theft of an antique object made by the Royal Jeweler's Garrards set with sapphires and diamonds.
It is an antique jewelry dealers nightmare, a thief's dream; the switch, the con, pulled off with precision. A moment earlier a gem set antique engagement ring was on the counter.........., and now it’s gone. The antique jeweler takes an inventory of stock, only to confirm his antique ring is missing. Most of the time theft is a hush hush subject in the world of antique jewelry dealers. To speak of it evokes fear of being jinxed.
The common thread running through every jewelry theft is greed. Thieves don't discriminate either as to the antique jewelries origins; Royal Jewels, important antique religious jewels, and old antique cut stones are all potential targets. From the well planned robbery by professionals, to the more casual lifts by the 'common' thief, thefts occur worldwide.
Stolen antique pieces are usually broken up immediately and sold for the stones so that the antique jewelry itself can never again be identified. Who knows, stolen stones may be glinting on your best friends finger, or nestling in granny's jewelry box, and the owner will never know that they have been part of another antique jewel in times past.
I want to bring this blog on antique and estate jewelry to a close with two stories about daring robberies. The first was by a 'lady Detroiter' Sophie Lyons and her husband Billie Burke on the Jewelry store Tiffany's back in the 1950/60's. The columnist Jack Manning takes up the story:
Sophie swept regally into the store and demanded to be shown an assortment of rubies and diamonds. She was a superb actress and could dress and talk like a patrician. She examined the antique cut gemstones, and finally announced there was nothing suitable and rose to leave. The clerk noticed however that seven expensive antique gemstones were missing, that were worth well over fifty grand. She and the clerk were the only persons within touching distance. The clerk called a store detective, and Sophie was escorted to a room and searched by a matron. Nary a stone was found on her, and she threw the place into an uproar, threatening to sue for damages.... eventually, she exited, the management apologizing. As Sophie said, "the most sullen and baffled apology you can imagine. They were not stupid. They knew I had taken the stones but they were helpless."
The next day her husband strolled nonchalantly into Tiffany's, bought an antique ring from the same clerk his wife had tricked, and paid cash. While the clerk was making out the receipt. Billie slipped the seven stolen antique gemstones from the gum under the counter where Sophie had stuck them and walked out a happier and wealthier man.'
The second story was also an audacious trick performed by another woman, also described as 'a perfect lady.' She pulled off her coup in 1965. She was able to defraud both Tiffany's and Harry Winston's in the space of fifteen minutes. It all started at Tiffany's, as she approached the Art Deco diamond counter; the salesman noticed she was wearing an expensive Art Deco, marquise cut diamond ring. She asked to see something in a higher-priced marquise ring. Impressed by the customers Art Deco dress ring, the salesman brought out several rings, leaving them on the counter while the lady tried the different rings on comparing the stones. Eventually, she said she simply could not make up her mind and left the store.
She walked down a block to Harry Winston's, and asked to see their more expensive Art Deco marquise cut diamond dress rings, laying her own ring down on the table. Again the suitably impressed salesman brought out a number of marquise cut diamond dress rings. Nevertheless, since the customer was not known, she was more closely watched than normal by a security guard, an ex-FBI man. Eventually as she had at Tiffany's, the woman said she could not make up her mind and left the store. It was not until later, when they checked over their stock and talked to each other, that the salesman at Tiffany's and Winston's learned what had happened.
At Tiffany's the perfect lady had exchanged the 2.75 carat diamond dress ring that she had worn into the store for one weighing 3.69 cts. which she wore going out. She walked into Winston's wearing the Tiffany ring, and with the two men closely watching, managed to exchange it for a Winston ring of 5.30 cts. The daring nerve of the woman who had tricked two of the most closely guarded antique stores in the country aroused the grudging admiration of even Winston. "She was not a professional thief," he said, "just a woman who wanted a more expensive Art Deco dress ring to wear." As to be expected the slick switch brought about a new rule at Tiffany's: never more than two rings on the counter at the same time.
At Beverley R Antique jewelry, you will not only find exquisite antique pieces and wonderful Art Deco platinum and diamond engagement rings, but also knowledgeable staff, who can regale their customers with much of the history of the pieces, and interesting stories from the vintage period.
1/ Art Deco, Platinum and Marquise diamonds crossover ring. Circa 1925
2/ Art Deco, Platinum and Marquise diamond. 1.78 cts. F color. Vs clarity. Circa 1935
3/ Art Deco, Platinum and Marquise diamonds, one white, and one natural cinnamon colored crossover. Circa 1935