Sometimes, the jewelry heists you see happen in the movies look too good to be true. For example, who’s really going to go the extra distance to obtain a drill that can get through the most robust steel? Then, all of a sudden the news is discussing how millions of dollars worth of jewels got robbed. Now the plot thickens as they talk about how the robbers pulled it off. It begins to sound a lot like Oceans Eleven, and there you are in disbelief. Well, believe it or not, here are the most expensive and elaborate jewel heists ever. From banks to celebrities, no one is safe.
2003 Antwerp Diamond Center – $118M
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A plan that was four years in the making came to fruition in 2003. With Antwerp being one of the diamond capitals in the world, extensive planning needed to happen. The thieves rented office space from across the Diamond center so they could analyze the alarm system to learn how to bypass it.
They also somehow obtained keys to the vaults that the diamonds were in and made copies. The day of the heist, they inserted fake tapes into the surveillance system. All signs pointed to an inside job, and it was. Due to one of the thieves leaving behind a half-eaten sandwich, most of them ended up going to jail.
2008 Damiani Showroom – $32M
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When people complain about a loud drilling noise near a diamond shop, maybe more attention should be placed on that complaint. Unfortunately, the police ignored the complaints they received from the woman who lived next door to the Damiani jewelry boutique.
Thieves had been drilling into the basement of the boutique for months. The shop was conveniently cleared of customers the day of the heist because they were prepping for a private showing. After the staff was tied up, the robbers made an easy escape.
1994 Carlton Hotel – $60M
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A gang known as the Pink Panthers made the Carlton Hotel their playground in 1994. It’s astounding how easy they made it look. The Panthers walked into the store at the hotel when it was closing and opened fire with their machine guns.
After they peppered the shop, they strolled out with $60M worth of jewels and diamonds. The ballistics team later found that because there were no bullet holes, the Panthers were firing blanks. More on the Carlton to come…
1983 Heathrow Airport – $39M
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For this heist, the robbers plotted on stealing cash, but when they got inside the Brinks-MAT warehouse located at the Heathrow Airport, they found tons of gold bullion. With inside help (one of the guards was related to the criminals) they managed to raid the warehouse quickly and tie up the other guards.
Because they didn’t know about the gold, they didn’t have a big enough vehicle but did the best they could. Instead of the planned five minutes, it ended up taking two hours. An added bonus was that they found uncut and cut diamonds. The cops had the relative as their prime suspect, and he ratted out the rest in a heartbeat. The gold, however, was never found.
2002 Museum Of Science – $12M
When a science museum is holding an exhibition entitled The Diamond – From Rough Stone to Gem, that is the time to attack. Many still can’t explain how this heist happened, especially since the thieves made off with a lot of pieces from the royal collections.
They broke in over the weekend through the window, undetected at that, and gained access to six of the 28 cabinets secured with alarms on the main jewelry floor. The last shocker is that no one knew about the robbery until the following Tuesday. This next heist has James Bond written all over it.
2000 Millennium Dome – Nearly $700M
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This has to be one of the greatest heists that almost happened. The Millennium Dome in London had just opened, and the thieves were ready to take advantage with fancy gadgets and tricks. They somehow had a JCB earth digger. The real tricksters here were the cops.
After the robbers entered, they threw tear gas to ensure no one could come inside but the cops were already dressed as a cleaning crew. They had been tipped off about the heist and replaced the Millennium Star diamond (203 carats) and 12 blue diamonds with fakes. The thieves would have been upset had they made an escape.
2013 Carlton Hotel – $136M
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Perhaps, the Carlton should up the security. Especially since this heist was done by only one person. One man wearing a cap and bandana walked into the exhibition on the first floor carrying a pistol and mozied on out with a suitcase full of diamonds that belonged to Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.
A man named Milan Poparic was the police’s primary suspect after he made an escape from prison. He escaped thanks to the Pink Panther’s ramming the front gate of the prison he was at and firing rounds at the security.
2007 ABN Amro Bank – $28M
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This heist is something that was most likely derived from a movie plot. A sweet, unsuspecting old man with the fake name of Carlos Hector started to visit the ABN Amro bank in Antwerp’s diamond district. After becoming close friends with the bank staff by giving them luxurious gifts and chocolate, the plan sprung into action.
“Carols Hector” soon found himself with a key to the bank’s vaults, proving trust is everything. He helped himself by emptying five boxes of uncut diamonds.
2009 Graff Diamonds – $65M
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Arguably the most massive jewel heist in British history is attributed to the infamous Pink Panthers. These Panthers are formed of former soldiers from Serbia in case you were wondering why they’re so good. Two of them went to London’s Graff Diamonds shop wearing nice suits.
The suits were used to conceal the handguns as they wrapped up 43 of the store’s prized items. They failed to cover their faces but had a makeup artist disguise them. The happy ending didn’t happen as one of the men left a cell phone in the getaway car, making it possible to find them.
2013 Brussels Airport – $50M
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This robbery might be the boldest one on the list depending on who you ask. Eight masked men with firearms dressed as the police cut a hole in the fence at the airport and drove right through. They pulled up to an airplane that was in the process of loading the jewels.
The plane was heading to Zurich, but they stopped it, and nonchalantly loaded 130 bags into their van. Ever since this happened, around 30 suspects have been rounded up with a small portion of the heist being returned.
2008 Harry Winston Store – $107M
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And so they strike again. The Pink Panthers came up as four men deep dressed as women at the Harry Winston store in Paris. It’s ironic because the police station is just down the road.
As soon as they entered, they threatened the staff with handguns and called them by their first names. The men dressed as ladies also knew exactly where the store’s secret safes were. In 20 minutes time, they made off with millions and were never seen again.
2005 Schipol Airport – $118M (Unconfirmed)
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Due to many of the diamonds being uncut that were stolen, it’s harder to put a hard value on them. Which is why the final amount is unconfirmed. With that aside, this heist is the largest diamond heist ever. This robbery was a simple truck hijack but done in a very gangster way.
Two weeks before the heist, the thieves test ran a stolen KLM cargo truck to make sure everything would be in order. Then on the day things went down, they wore KLM uniforms and drove right up to the truck with the diamonds with tons of people watching. The gang forced the people out at gunpoint and made them lie facedown on the floor. After that, they just drove away, and cops still haven’t found them.
C’mon, Not John Stamos! – $165K
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The thing that makes this robbery so sick is the timing of it all. John Stamos and his wife, Caitlin McHugh were moments away from tying the knot according to the police. That’s when the burglars made their way into the happy couple’s hotel.
The two were staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel when things went down. The police weren’t sure how the burglars made their way into the hotel room and made off with the $165K worth of jewelry, and there was no sign of forced entry.
Lucy Hale Gets Got – $15K
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Who watches Pretty Little Liars? Well, one of the popular characters, Lucy Hale was a victim to theft back in January 2018. Her house in the San Fernando Valley is where her stuff was robbed according to TMZ. They entered by smashing through her front window.
Thankfully, Hale was not home at the time. And because her alarm was on, signs point towards it being a random hit and not a case of targeting the blossoming star.
Hilary Duff Becomes A Victim – $100K +
In 2017, TMZ reported that the former Disney star had her home broken into. Oh no, not Lizzie McGuire! She was on vacation in Canada at the time of the robbery, and the thieves left with hundreds of thousands of jewelry.
Some of these celebrity heists can be a form of targeting or just a random hit. Duff’s PR team said the event was, “a scary and upsetting situation,” but that Duff is thankful no one was hurt.
Nicki Burglarized In Los Angeles – $200K
The multi-platinum selling recording artist Nicki Minaj is no stranger to crime, as she grew up on the harsh streets of Jamaica Queens, New York. Sadly, she still is a victim of theft even with all of her success. Back in 2017, her LA home was hit and robbed of jewels and other items.
It happened while she was out of town and there were signs of forced entry. A lot of her furniture had been flipped over while other things were straight up destroyed. Even pieces of her clothes had been cut, making this seem like a personal vendetta.
Paris Hilton Has Expensive Jewelry – $2M
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Paris Hilton is no stranger to controversy. Her famous life has been filled with newsworthy events and theft is a part of that list. The Daily Mail says that her house has been burglarized a minimum of five times.
On top of that, she has been targeted by a group of teenage bandits that go by the Bling Ring. After all of this, it was reported that Hilton didn’t say anything until $2M worth of jewelry had been stolen.
Usher Isn’t Immune To Theft – $1M
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The “Let it Burn” hitmaker Usher has also fallen victim to jewelry theft. After being in the music industry for so long, you can bet that he has piled up tons of jewels and in 2010, some of them were snatched from his car.
BET reported that Usher’s car had been broken into during the holiday season of 2010. Not only were some of his jewels taken, but they also left with clothes, and electronics while he shopped at the Lenox Mall in Atlanta.
Kim Robbed For Millions – $11M
Kim Kardashian-West was a victim of a crucial home invasion while she was in Paris. The thieves entered her hotel room and proceeded to gag, bound, and rob her at gunpoint. They made off with almost all of her jewels except her wedding ring.
She recalled the situation and described what was going through her head. “I have a split second in my mind to make this quick decision, like, am I gonna run down the stairs, and, like, either be shot in the back,” Kardashian-West said, tearing up. “It makes me so upset to think about it.”
The Sister Is Targeted Too – $200K
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Only months after her bigger sister Kim was a victim, younger sister Kendall Jenner’s home was hit. Her Los Angeles house was robbed in March of 2017. For her to be a target that soon after her sister makes it seem like this was highly intentional.
The Los Angeles Police Department tallied up the number of items missing to be worth nearly $200K. That isn’t nearly as much as Kim got robbed for but it’s more than many people spend on their house.