Tales of criminal masterminds swindling away diamonds, rubies and emeralds in elaborate robberies have captured Hollywood’s imagination for decades. But this week, a raid on a castle vault in Germany has reminded us that real-life jewelry heists are an unfortunate reality.
In the early hours of Monday morning, around 100 priceless treasures were removed from Dresden’s Green Vault, one of Europe’s largest collections of masterpieces. The thieves are believed to have accessed the museum by cutting through a grille and breaking a window.
Within minutes, two suspects were seen moving through the gallery with flashlights, before smashing a display case and fleeing with priceless jewels containing diamonds, pearls and rubies.
It may not have been history’s most sophisticated operation, but the Green Vault robbers join a long list of thieves making off with millions of dollars’ worth of precious jewels. Here are some of recent history’s most notorious heists.
Swedish royal jewels stolen
In July 2018, thieves stole a number of precious royal artifacts from a Swedish church before escaping by speedboat.
Items once belonging to Swedish monarch Karl IX and his wife Kristina, including a golden orb adorned with a crucifix and two crowns, were taken from a cathedral west of Stockholm. The items date back to the early 17th century.
At the time, police said they could not comment on the value of the items stolen. But dean of the Strängnäs parish, Christofer Lundgren, told CNN affiliate Expressen that their monetary value pales in comparison to their significance in Sweden’s cultural history.
The thieves fled in an open-topped motorboat from the base of the church. Police patrol boats and helicopters joined the hunt.
This year, a man was convicted and sentenced to four and half years in prison for the robbery.
Hatton Garden safe deposit Carried out during the Easter holiday in 2015, this heist saw thieves break into Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd in London before making away with nearly $21.2 million in gems, jewelry and cash. It was later described in court as the “largest burglary in English legal history.”
The perpetrators gained access through an elevator shaft. They then used a drill to bore through a six-foot-thick wall and enter the basement vault, investigators said at the time.
Four men eventually went on trial, pleading guilty to conspiracy to burgle. The prosecution described the thieves, who were all aged above 40, as “ringleaders and organizers” of the crime.
At the time, media outlets had speculated the value of the haul could be in the vicinity of then $303 million, though during the trial, prosecutors placed the value of the stolen property at $18 million.
Read more about the most notorious modern-day jewelry heists on the CNN.com website HERE