Valentine’s Day sparks thoughts of romance, chocolate, flowersand yes … jewels. Everything from small sparkly diamonds totoo-large-to-be-missed baubles are purchased around the globe thistime of year in a show of true love.

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In honor of this special day, we decided to take a look at the"other" side of the jewelry business by reviewing some of thebiggest recent jewel and diamond heists from around the world.

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Each of these heists required a lot more preparation andcreativity than those executed by Cary Grant’s character in “ToCatch a Thief.” The sheer daring of these robberies surely meantmonths of planning and finding teams of thieves who could executethe plans as flawlessly as the jewels they were stealing. Thefour C’s of diamonds might be color, cut, clarity and carat, butfor jewel thieves the process of selecting a target involves somuch more – daring, opportunity, an inside man, and the chance of aclean getaway and a huge payday.

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The reality for the insurance industry, however, is rarely sostunning.

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Read on to learn more.

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Graff Diamonds in London lost $65 million in jewels
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Graff Diamonds - $65 million

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In August 2009, two men in suits entered the Graff Diamondsstore in London, England. They brandished their guns and forced thesales staff to unlock the display cases, making off with more than40 pieces of jewelry worth a total of $65 million U.S..

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It was nearly the perfect crime too, because the thieves hadvisited a makeup artist before entering the store and theirappearances were significantly altered so no one could identifythem. However, technology turned out to be their downfall. One ofthe thieves left his cell phone in one of the getaway cars andauthorities were able to track him down along with his nineaccomplices. While the perpetrators were captured, the jewels werenot. To date, none of the stolen jewelry has been recovered.

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Schiphol Airport
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Schiphol Airport - $77 million

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This audacious heist took place on the tarmac at the SchipholAirport in Amsterdam. Thieves dressed as KLM workers stole anairline vehicle and then hijacked a truck transporting an estimated$77 million ($75 million euros) in diamonds that were beingtransferred to a plane bound for Antwerp.

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Investigators believe the thieves had inside help because theyknew when to strike and which vehicle was carrying the diamonds.The thieves have never been caught and the uncut diamonds havenever been found.

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Antwerp Diamond Center

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Antwerp Diamond Center - $100 million

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It was the crime that everyone thought would be impossible topull off. Eighty percent of the world’s uncut diamonds go throughAntwerp and many of them are kept in an underground vault below theAntwerp Diamond Center. The vault holds 160 safety deposit boxeswhere the diamond brokers can leave their gems while negotiatingtheir deals with jewelers.

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It took the mastermind of this heist, Leonardo Notarbartolo,four years to assemble his team and plan its perfect execution. Theteam learned how to bypass the alarm, the routine of the securityguard (which tipped them off to where the key to the vault washidden) and inserted fake tapes into the surveillance system sotheir activities would not be detected. They had to penetrate eightdifferent levels of security to reach the vault. When they did,there were so many diamonds in the vault that the thieves were onlyable to empty 123 of the safety deposit boxes. It was the perfectcrime…almost.

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The thieves were caught when they failed to thoroughly disposeof some uneaten food tossed away with bags from the heist andreceipts from the Diamond Center. Most of thieves were caught, butthe diamonds have never been found.

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Harry Winston

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Harry Winston - $113 million

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Harry Winston jewels are synonymous with the jet-setting richand famous. His jewels have graced Halle Berry, Elizabeth Taylor,Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie, amongmany others.

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In December 2008, the Harry Winston store in Paris was robbed bythree cross-dressing gunmen sporting wigs and skirts as well asguns. They managed to steal $108 million worth of jewels, 297pieces of jewelry and 104 watches, all in under 20 minutes. Thebandits had help from someone on the inside because they referredto employees by name and knew where the store’s secret storageboxes were located according to a report in TheGuardian.

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The previous year, a team of men dressed as painters had hit thesame store, stealing 360 items and 120 watches. The total takebetween both heists was $113 million. A team of eight men werearrested for the crimes. Only some of the jewels have beenrecovered.

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The Carlton Hotel

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Intercontinental Carlton Cannes - $136million

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The landmark hotel was the backdrop for the 1955 film, “To Catcha Thief,” starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, and over the yearsthe hotel has been the site of several real life jewel heists. Butnone was as quickly and efficiently executed as one by a singlethief in July 2013.

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The jewels were part of a collection belonging to theDubai-based Leviev diamond house. At the time of the theft theywere being stored in what turned out to be a very poorly guardedhotel room. The lone robber wore a bandana over his face and amotorcycle helmet, and was armed with an automatic pistol. Theexhibit had not yet opened and the jewels were not in their securedisplay cases. Several people were in the room at the time,including three unarmed private security guards.

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The thief took a briefcase and what is described as a “box ofjewels” that contained 72 pieces including flawless colorlessdiamonds, pink and yellow diamonds, emeralds and sapphires in lessthan a minute and escaped out a side door.

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While the thief operated alone, authorities believed he hadaccomplices because of the perfect timing of the heist and the easewith which he escaped. No one has seen the thief or the jewelssince.

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Diamonds

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While the jewelry most insureds own probably doesn’t rise to thevalue of the gems highlighted here, it’s still wise to ensure thatmajor pieces of jewelry are protected by insurance. According tothe Insurance Information Institute, jewelry losses are the mostfrequent contents claims, so here are some tips to protect yourbeautiful gems:

  1. Contact your insurer to see if any pieces of jewelry needadditional insurance. Some policies have limits of $1,000 to$2,000.
  2. When purchasing jewelry, send a copy of the receipt to theinsurer along with a photo of the piece. If it is a gift, have itappraised and send the appraisal to the insurer.
  3. Keep a home inventory of all possessions, especially jewelryand collectibles.

Jewelry should definitely be enjoyed and cherished, and properlyinsuring it against loss allows the wearer to appreciate it evenmore.

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