4 Diamond Heists That Went Hilariously Wrong

Diamond sellers don’t tend to see diamond heists in the same way that they are portrayed in the movies: action-packed, glamorized, and intriguing. Instead, these tragic thefts can ruin our businesses and livelihoods. On the other hand, it is always encouraging to see heists thwarted by the police, and it doesn’t hurt when there’s a bit of comedy involved. Read on for a list of four of the funniest diamond heists in recent history.

The Worst Diamond Heist Ever: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Entrance,_New_Mexico_Museum_of_Natural_History_and_Science,_Albuquerque_NM
The entrance to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.

In April 2014, an incredibly uninformed thief in New Mexico pulled off what may be the worst diamond heist in history. A 3 carat diamond was stolen from an exhibit in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, but the diamond did not stay stolen for long. The thief broke a lock on a display case to swipe the diamond, but perhaps he should have done his homework before doing so. The diamond was in the volcano exhibit of the museum, included as part of a display on how rocks form. Three carat loose diamonds can be quite valuable, but that is only if they have high 4C grades. This stone was definitely not gem quality, and the museum hadn’t even set an estimated value for it.

After trying to sell the diamond at various gem shops in the area, the thief quickly realized that the stone he had stolen was not worth the effort – or any large sum of money. The stone was returned to the museum the next day, and then secured in a safe to prevent future thefts as employees repaired the volcano exhibit. With a failure as epic as this one, I’m thinking the thief decided against stealing diamonds in the future.

Swanky Swindlers: Paris, France

The Harry Winston storefront in Paris. Image credit: Le Figaro.
The Harry Winston storefront in Paris. Image credit: Le Figaro.

On December 4, 2008, four fashionable ladies walked into the Harry Winston engagement ring store in a wealthy neighborhood in Paris. This seemed like business as usual for Harry Winston employees, until the women pulled out handguns and held up the store, getting away with $107 million worth of loose diamonds, fine jewelry, and watches. Once the robbery was underway, it became clear that this was an inside job, and that the burglars were actually just men dressed as women. The burglars called the Harry Winston employees by their first names, and they were able to complete the theft in 20 minutes because they knew the location of every secret safe in the store. If you’re going to go through the trouble to rob a store in disguise, you might want to get your character’s story straight!

Careless Crooks: London, England

graff-diamonds-on-sloane-street-knightsbridge-london92-900x600
The Graff Diamonds storefront.

On August 6, 2009, just before closing, two men in suits entered Graff Diamonds in London, England. They seemed just like many of the store’s typical clientele, until they brandished handguns and demanded that the store’s employees hand over their supply of precious gems and fine jewelry. The thieves made off with about $65 million worth of goods before jumping into a getaway car. A car chase followed, with the burglars switching cars multiple times and shooting at witnesses, including a Graff Diamonds security guard.

What set this robbery apart are the lengths the thieves took to conceal their identities from the police and Graff employees. They hired professional makeup artists to drastically change their appearances – even skin color, for one of the robbers. However, even after going through all of the effort of having multiple getaway cars and prosthetics to change their faces, it was a careless mistake that caused the Graff Diamonds thieves to get caught. One of the burglars left his cell phone in a getaway vehicle, making it extremely easy for the police to discover the thieves’ identities and apprehend them.

Prepared Plunderers: London, England

millennium star diamond
The Millennium Star diamond.

In 2000, a group of burglars put in some serious prep time before attempting to rob the newly constructed Millennium Dome in London. They had their eyes on an incredibly valuable prize: the Millennium Star diamond, weighing it at 203 carats. The Millennium Dome was also home to a large collection of rare blue diamonds. In total, had this heist been successful, the burglars would have been going home with approximately $700 million worth of precious gemstones and jewelry. The thieves had spent months preparing for this high-value heist, acquiring special tools and equipment for the job.

However, unbeknownst to the crooks, the London police had received a tip about the impending theft and starting making preparations of their own. So, when the thieves bust into the Millennium Dome armed with gas masks and sledgehammers, they were quickly caught. The police had engaged in some trickery of their own. They were disguised as the Dome’s cleaning crew so that the thieves wouldn’t get suspicious, and their disguises worked perfectly.

Blundering Bandits: Some Quick and Foolish Diamond Heists

Ritani prong set engagement ring

  • In 2009, a burglar in Martinsburg, West Virgina swiped two diamond rings from a woman’s home. Fortunately for her, the thief had logged into his Facebook account from her computer while the robbery was in progress and forgot to log out, revealing his identity.
  • In 2012, a Florida man attempted to pawn a stolen ring at the same store where the rightful owner bought the ring. The jewelry store manager recognized the piece, and immediately called the police.
  • This year in Arizona, a careless criminal used his job at UPS to steal an engagement ring valued at $160,000. Without having the ring valued, he then traded the ring for a $20 bag of marijuana. After he was arrested for the theft, he told police he “made a mistake” in deciding to go through with the trade. We’re inclined to agree!

Have you received your diamond education? Learn about the 4Cs, the ins and outs of diamond cuts, and more in our education section.