Place Vendome is an elegant old square known for its luxury hotels, and is also home to numerous jewellery stores as well as the French justice ministry.
In December, armed robbers stole jewels worth at least 80m euros ($102m) from a store near the French capital’s famous Champs-Elysees avenue.
As many as four robbers, two disguised as women, raided the Harry Winston’s store and stole nearly all its valuables.
‘Like any other customer’
The Vendome robber struck just before 1500 (1300 GMT) on Saturday, at a time when, in good weather, the square is usually full of strollers.
“According to the first set of information we received, it was a man in his 50s, dressed in a chic costume and wearing a Borsalino [fedora] hat,” Olivier Lebon, a police union representative, told Reuters news agency.
Blue Diamond sells for Highest Per Carat Price Ever
“The Game abuse it, its pain in music
But this year, wrist wear remains the Bluest” – Cam’ron
A flawless vivid blue diamond weighing 7.03 carats sold on Tuesday for a record 10.5 million Swiss francs (6.2 million pounds), the highest price paid per carat for any gemstone at auction, Sotheby’s said.
The rectangular-shaped blue stone, the rarest to enter the international market this year, went to an anonymous buyer bidding by telephone after hectic bidding see-sawed between two callers for 15 minutes.
It was the centrepiece of its semi-annual sale in Geneva, conducted by David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s jewellery department in Europe and the Middle East, who said the results showed the market’s resilience despite the economic downturn.
“This is already a new world record price for a fancy vivid blue diamond and a new world record per carat for any gemstone (at auction),” Bennett told reporters.
“It is fantastic in this market and shows that these rare things are very much in demand,” he said.
The final price includes a commission paid by the buyer to the auction house. The stone sets a record price per carat for any gemstone sold at auction of $1,349,752, (890, 275 pounds) Sotheby’s said.
The previous record price for a fancy vivid blue diamond was $7.9 million, including commission, for a stone weighing 6.04 carats at sale in Hong Kong in October 2007, also by Sotheby’s.
The new owner will have the right to name the stone, which is mounted in a platinum ring. The pre-sale catalogue estimate was 6.8 million to 10 million francs, excluding commission. The hammer price excluding commission was 9.3 million francs.
It was put up for sale by London-listed Petra Diamonds, which extracted it last year from the historic Cullinan mine in South Africa, the world’s most regular supplier of blue diamonds of size and quality. Blue are the rarest of the diamond family after reds.
“To have a stone mined last year and cut the early part of this year so it is absolutely virgin coming straight from the mine has never happened before,” Bennett said. “This is one of the extremely rare substances in our universe.”
The sale fetched a total of 39.5 million swiss francs for 266 lots which found new owners, while another 80 pieces were stranded on the block.
“In this general economic environment to see $35 million worth sold in a session shows a lot about the resilience of fine jewels no matter what the climate,” Bennett said.
Fresh stones to the market, including coloured diamonds, fetched good prices, the Briton said.
The global recession sapped demand for all kinds of commodities — like steel and grain — yet small burlap bags are still arriving by the planeload at Russia’s state-owned diamond company.
Each day, the contents of the bags spill into the stainless steel hoppers of the receiving room. The diamonds are washed and sorted by size, clarity, shape and quality; then, rather than being sent to be sold around the world, they are wrapped in paper and whisked away to a vault — about three million carats worth of gems every month.
Russia quietly passed a milestone this year: surpassing De Beers as the world’s largest diamond producer. But the global market for diamonds is so dismal that the Alrosa diamond company, 90 percent owned by the Russian government, has not sold a rough stone on the open market since December, and has stockpiled them instead.
As a result, Russia has become the arbiter of global diamond prices. Its decisions on production and sales will determine the value of diamonds on rings and in jewelry stores for years to come, in one of the most surprising consequences of this recession.
Largely because of the jewelry bear market, De Beers’s fortunes have sunk. Short of cash, the company had to raise $800 million from stockholders in just the last six months.
The recession also coincided with a settlement with European Union antitrust authorities that ended a longtime De Beers policy of stockpiling diamonds, in cooperation with Alrosa, to keep prices up.
Though it is a major commodity producer, Russia has traditionally not embraced policies that artificially keep prices up. In oil, for example, Russia benefits from the oil cartel’s cuts in production, but does not participate in them.
Diamonds are an exception. “If you don’t support the price,” Andrei V. Polyakov, a spokesman for Alrosa, said, “a diamond becomes a mere piece of carbon.”
How the buy-in price for the stones will be set, and how the company will determine when the price goes up and down, is unclear, Mr. Malinin said.
“We have to tell people that diamonds are valuable,” he said. “We are trying to maintain the price, just as De Beers did, as all diamond producing countries do. But what we are doing is selling an illusion,” meaning a product with no utility and a price that depends on the continued sense of scarcity where there is none.
He was also identified by a leg tattoo, he told Reuters.
The Pink Panthers are believed to have staged some 120 attacks on luxury stores in around 20 countries, since their first robbery in London’s exclusive Mayfair district in 2003.
They pulled off one of their most spectacular heists last December, when they walked away with up to 85 million euros ($114 million) worth of goods after entering the Harry Winston jewellers in central Paris disguised as women.
Global police agency Interpol said fingerprint checks positively identified Hadziahmetovic, 41, wanted for armed robberies across the world, including in Bahrain, Japan, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
Over time people have been forced to dig deeper in their searches. Mineshafts wide enough for one man to descend are dotted around like lunar craters.
Beneath the surface men dig in tiny cramped caves, labouring in subterranean heat, the hope of finding sapphires tempered by the constant threat of a collapsed shaft. Desperation and greed mean many are killed or die in the pursuit of the precious gems.
People & Power takes a look at the extraordinary story of Ilakaka and the ‘sapphire rush’ through the eyes of those effected; gem dealers, mine owners, police chiefs and miners, those who risk their lives on a daily basis in search of that one stone that they hope will transform their impoverished lives.
What is life like in Ilakaka amidst the whirlwind pursuit of profit?
A flawless 7.03-carat blue diamond will be among the jewels up for sale at Sotheby’s upcoming auction in Geneva.
The diamond, an internally flawless, fancy-vivid-blue, cushion-cut stone, was cut from a 26.58-carat piece of rough discovered in 2008 at Petra Diamonds’ historic Cullinan Diamond Mine in South Africa.
The Cullinan mine has produced some of the world’s largest diamonds, including the 3,106-carat “Cullinan,” the largest rough gem ever unearthed.
The diamond is estimated to fetch between $5.8 million-$8.5 million, according to a press release from Sotheby’s, and, as always, the buyer will have the honor of naming the stone.
The sale, called “Magnificent Jewels,” is scheduled for May 12 at the Beau-Rivage Hotel in Geneva.
Commenting on the blue diamond, David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Department for Europe and the Middle East, said “Blue diamonds are among the rarest of all nature’s treasures and it is very exciting to have such a fine example as the centerpiece of our forthcoming Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale. This stone certainly ranks among the most important blue diamonds that I have had the privilege of offering for sale in my career at Sotheby’s, and what makes it particularly special for us is that we’ve been able to follow its production from the initial rough state through the various stages of its cutting and polishing.”
In the last three years, Sotheby’s has seen three blue diamonds garner more than $1 million per carat at auction, including a pear-shaped vivid-blue diamond set in a ring that brought $4.9 million at the Geneva auction in May 2008, setting a new world record price-per-carat for any gemstone at auction.
Polished diamond prices have dropped 15 percent in the past six months, according to an index from PolishedPrices.com.
Sotheby’s sold a vivid blue emerald diamond in October 2007 for a then-record $1.32 million per carat. The 6.04-carat stone fetched $7.9 million in Hong Kong, the company said. It has since sold two further pear-shaped blue diamonds for $4.9 million and $4.7 million.
Petra sold a 39.19-carat rough blue diamond from Cullinan for $8.8 million in October. The world’s most expensive blue diamond is the 17th century Blue Wittelsbach Diamond, which fetched $24.3 million at Christie’s in December, according to the International Colored Gemstone Association’s web site.
Excellent story of the Heist of the Antwerp Diamond Center:
It was February 16, 2003 — a clear, frozen Sunday evening in Belgium. Notarbartolo took the E19 motorway out of Antwerp. In the passenger seat, a man known as Speedy fidgeted nervously, damp with sweat. Notarbartolo punched it, and his rented Peugeot 307 sped south toward Brussels. They hadn’t slept in two days.
Speedy scanned the traffic behind them in the side-view mirror and maintained a tense silence. Notarbartolo had worked with him for 30 years—they were childhood buddies—but he knew that his friend had a habit of coming apart at the end of a job. The others on the team hadn’t wanted Speedy in on this one—they said he was a liability. Notarbartolo could see their point, but out of loyalty, he defended his friend. Speedy could handle it, he said.
And he had. They had executed the plan perfectly: no alarms, no police, no problems. The heist wouldn’t be discovered until guards checked the vault on Monday morning. The rest of the team was already driving back to Italy with the gems. They’d rendezvous outside Milan to divvy it all up. There was no reason to worry. Notarbartolo and Speedy just had to burn the incriminating evidence sitting in a garbage bag in the backseat.
Notarbartolo pulled off the highway and turned onto a dirt road that led into a dense thicket. The spot wasn’t visible from the highway, though the headlights of passing cars fractured through the trees. Notarbartolo told Speedy to stay put and got out to scout the area.
He passed a rusty, dilapidated gate that looked like it hadn’t been touched since the Second World War. It was hard to see in the dark, but the spot seemed abandoned. He decided to burn the stuff near a shed beside a small pond and headed back to the car.
When he got there, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Speedy had lost it. The contents of the garbage bag was strewn amongst the trees. Speedy was stomping through the mud, hurling paper into the underbrush. Spools of videotape clung to the branches like streamers on a Christmas tree. Israeli and Indian currency skittered past a half-eaten salami sandwich. The mud around the car was flecked with dozens of tiny, glittering diamonds. It would take hours to gather everything up and burn it.
Notarbartolo glared at him. The forest was quiet except for the occasional sound of a car or truck on the highway. It was even possible to hear the faint gurgling of a small stream. Speedy was breathing fast and shallow—the man was clearly in the midst of a full-blown panic attack.
“Get back in the car,” Notarbartolo ordered. They were leaving. Nobody would ever find the stuff here.
A savvy band of jewel thieves, armed with guns and some posing as women, have struck in the heart of the city’s golden triangle of luxury shops, stealing more than €85 million worth of diamonds, rings and watches from a posh Harry Winston boutique.
The brazen $108 million theft Thursday, which some French newspapers quickly branded the heist of the century, reflected a savvy knowledge of the jewelry business, happening during the peak of the holiday season, when jewelry stocks are plentiful.
The police said that at least four people were involved in the robbery of Harry Winston, which is on a street of deluxe shops near the Champs Élysées that is crowded with boutiques for Chanel, Dior and Gucci. Around closing time at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the thieves entered and confronted 15 employees. At least two of the robbers were dressed in wigs and women’s clothes, while a fourth accomplice apparently waited outside as the getaway driver, Lévy said.
The boutique has already weathered an earlier audacious robbery of €10 million of goods, in October 2007. At the time, the company offered a €500,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of its diamonds. In April, Harry Winston posted a pre-tax gain of $13.5 million from the settlement of its insurance claim in that earlier robbery.
To date, the record for jewelry theft remains a heist in February 2003, when thieves reaped €100 millions in diamonds from the vaults at Antwerp’s diamond exchange.