DARING DIAMOND HEIST: THE 2019 ROBBERY IN LONDON REMAINS UNSOLVED, A REPORTAGE BY KYLE RODERICK
Scintillating beautiful, valuable and alive with icy light, diamonds and their romantic symbolism have been treasured, worn and coveted by royals and commoners throughout history. Likewise, jewels set with diamonds have long lured thieves to risk life and limb in pursuit of these glittering prizes. While preparing for a heist, criminals spend months, and in some cases years, plotting high-end jewellery robberies, recruiting and training accomplices and also searching the criminal underworld for operators who can be trusted to efficiently, discreetly and quickly fence the stolen diamond jewellery. In April 2019, an especially daring heist occurred at a London branch of the New York-based heritage jeweler Tiffany & Co. Involving various vehicles, multiple personnel and substantial property destruction, this speedy, greedy caper (which remains unsolved) exemplifies state-of-the-art diamond jewellery theft.
Shortly before 3:00 a.m. on April 26, 2019, a driver backed up a flatbed truck in front of Tiffany’s 145 Sloane Street boutique in the London borough of Knightsbridge. Speeding the heavy vehicle in reverse, the driver smashed through the plate glass storefront like a battering ram. As the boutique’s façade sheared clear from the walls, a gang of moped-driving accomplices zoomed up in front of Tiffany & Co. and parked. While flying window fragments crashed into the jewellery display cases, a blizzard of diamond jewels and glassy shards blew around the interior and formed jagged piles on the floor. Within seconds, the truck driver and moped men stormed inside and stuffed their bags with jewellery. Leaving the truck amidst the ruins, the thieves jumped onto their mopeds and disappeared into the dark in different directions, red tail lights glowing like rubies in a Tiffany fireworks brooch.
According to Detective Inspector David Watkinson of London’s Metropolitan Police, “This was a brazen and targeted incident which has resulted in a significant amount of items stolen.” In response to this and other robberies involving mopeds and motorcycles, London’s Metropolitan police are now using specially trained police drivers to pursue, and if necessary, ram, alleged thieves with police cars as they leave crime scenes with their ill-gotten goods. According to a statement released by Amanda Pearson, the Metropolitan’s then-frontline policing commander, these trained police drivers specialize in preventing injuries to both offenders, as well as law-abiding citizens caught in the middle of a high speed chase. While Tiffany & Co. declined to comment on the retail value of jewellery taken during the Sloane Street theft, some English newspapers reported that the haul totaled nearly 1 million British pounds, or US$1,283,765.00.
Founded in 1837, Tiffany & Co. enjoys unparalleled international brand recognition as a result of Truman Capote’s 1958 bestselling novella, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the enduring popularity of the 1961 film of the same name. Starring Audrey Hepburn as the club-hopping; sugar daddy-hunting girl-about-town Holly Golightly, the film opens with her standing on the sidewalk in front of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue and 57th Street flagship store in New York. Clad in a full length, sleek black evening gown, long black gloves and sophisticated black sunglasses, Holly is sobering up at sunrise and feasting her eyes on the dazzling jewels inside Tiffany’s windows. A vision of youthful chic and urban sophistication, Holly may be sipping take-out coffee and nibbling on a pastry, but her eyes are devouring the diamond jewels that sparkle on the other side of the glass. The message of this scene is clear: Tiffany & Co. is a diamond-dusted dream palace that’s a must-visit for jewellery lovers.
According to Miami-based vintage jewellery dealer Keni Valenti, “Having created superb quality diamond jewellery, watches and other adornments for almost two centuries, Tiffany is a great heritage jeweler of the United States, one of the world’s most recognized luxury brands and also a beloved cultural institution. No matter how crazy, noisy and rude the outside world becomes,” Valenti continues, “every Tiffany store remains a refuge of luxurious good taste and civility where you or I can try on, and maybe even go home with, a precious piece of diamond gold, platinum or sterling silver jewellery, a gold watch, or other handmade luxury item.”
Because the ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ film is streamed by several major online services, the brand is continually being promoted globally, Valenti observes. “Can you name any other movie that glamourisess a global luxury jewellery brand like this one does?” (No, we of The Glitterati cannot!) While Tiffany & Co.’s public image and brand recognition is enhanced whenever people view the film, he continues, “When the pop artist Lady Gaga wore the Tiffany yellow diamond necklace on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the televised broadcast and other superstar imagery from that event stoked even more desire for Tiffany jewels around the world.” Valenti, who has supplied haute luxe jewellery for various feature films and such television series as “Sex and the City,” also sells to private clients. “Tiffany & Co. is an international shrine to jewellery and cosmopolitan style,” says Los Angeles-based jewellery publicist Andrew Nguyen, founder of FELT Worldwide. “Luxury jewellery stores like Tiffany & Co. need extra special protection,” says Nguyen, whose clients include such luxury diamond jewellery companies as Moritz Glik and Gumuchian. “I imagine that the company is constantly evaluating and upgrading security at all of its boutiques.” (We imagine the same.) Long live the safety, sanctity and scintillation of Tiffany & Co.!
Kyle Roderick is the author of Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry, an online jewellery trunk show host & Forbes magazine jewellery journalist.
Follow Kyle on Instagram @bijouxreview