Ever since the first diamond was plucked from the earth, these stones have been viewed as objects of immeasurable value. Consequentially, people have been snatching them from each other with rapacity. That is to say, diamonds and jewels have been some of the most sought after things to steal for centuries. As this tradition is still going quite strong today, let’s take a look back at some of the grandest (and unsolved) diamond and gemstone plunders in recorded history.
The Treasure of Lima
Dios Mio! After the Spaniards wrestled control of Peru from the native Incas during the 1500’s, they thought the country would be a perfect place for hiding some of their illustrious treasures. These valuables included various jewels and gemstones, some priceless candlesticks and, naturally, “two life-size solid gold statues of Mary holding the baby Jesus.” How much were these historic pieces valued at during the time they were to be transported to Mexico in 1820? Possibly 60 million unos grandes. Adjust for a little thing called inflation, and we’re looking at roughly $250,000,000 today. Now here’s where the story gets greedily good: A heretofore trustworthy sea captain, William Thomas, was hired to ship the loot in his majestic vessel the “Mary Dear,” but he and his sea-faring posse thought hey, “Argghh ye matey,” and pirated the whole operation, murdering anyone who opposed them. They made a quick stop off at Cocos Island (near modern day Costa Rica) and plopped the purloined goods into the supple sand. Eventually Thomas was caught and brought back to the island to show the Spanish where their stuff was hidden – yet Thomas pulled a fast one and ran off into the jungle. After many attempts over the decades to locate it, no one has been able to find that luscious gold/gem conglomeration. Those who believe strongly in Karma hold the conviction that Thomas was hastily devoured by carnivorous parrots deep in the jungle. (source: The telegraph.co.uk)
*update: the modern day Treasure of Lima is Adriana Lima.
The history of this yellow fellow is sketchy at best. Allegedly, after purchasing the stone, the Duke of “Burgundy” (a region of southern France, now known for wine and being a color), donned the diamond in battle and died ignominiously in 1476. Some fool-hearty rando then found the massive, 137 carat sparkler, thought it was glass (or “florin”) and sold it to somebody for a few pennies. The ginormous gemstone eventually found its way into the possession of many famed families, such as the Medicis and then the Austrian royal clan the Habsburgs (now known as the “Has-beens”). When the Austrian empire was crumbling like a moldy crumb cake during the first World War, Charles the First (of the soon to be defunct Austria) scampered away and hid with his gem in some Swiss castle, clutching it like Gollum. Well somebody got close enough to snatch that puppy, and flee to South America with it. The final gemmy gossip is that some Gatsby-like American purchased it in the 1920’s and brought it back to the states. Here it essentially entered the witness protection program for diamonds: it was potentially cut to become another stone altogether (or possibly two, or…more?) and its whereabouts remain an abject mystery. It was valued at an estimated $750,000 back at the turn of the century, so who knows what this sparkler would actually be worth now. (source: famousdiamonds.tripod.com)
Irish Crown Jewels
The torrid tale of these lucky little gems (emeralds, rubies, pink and huge white diamonds encased in numerous precious metals) is wrought with intrigue. After passing hands through many generations of Irish nobility, the jewels ended up in Dublin Castle, under lock and key. That didn’t stop some enterprising thieves from liberating the valuables in 1907. The larcenists were never caught, but extremely weird and wild theories circulated nonetheless. Some lords blamed “Unionist criminals,” while others defamed the very staff of Dublin House, stating that they had “homosexual orgies” and the naughty (yet well dressed) rascals involved were the culprits. More scandal arose when the King of Arms accused his right hand man of doing the dirty deed. Regardless of how it actually went down, the jewels are still at large, and they would fetch a cool 7.8 million dollars today. (source: historyireland.com)
The narrative of Tucker’s Cross may seem relatively tame in comparison to some of the previously listed stories, however the ending to this account is slightly more melancholic. Teddy Tucker, an explorer extraordinaire and native of Bermuda, was exploring the high seas as usual (no big deal) in 1955. He chanced upon a 22 karat, solid gold crucifix, bespectacled with giant glistening emeralds. Legend has it that this priceless cross went down with the San Pedro, an ill-fated Spanish ship that sank in 1594 (qué lastima). Tucker made a deal with the Bermudan government, selling it to them so that it could be displayed in a museum that Tucker and his gorgeous and sultry wife oversaw, as a symbol of Bermudan beauty (even though it was really from Spain, but whatever). Valued at $250,000 at the time, it was considered the world’s “Most Valuable Sunken Treasure.” After a lot of hullabaloo involving the sale of the museum and a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, a closer inspection of the cross revealed that it had been pilfered – a carefully crafted replica sat in its cherished spot. Tucker hung his head in shame, while the heretic thieves laughed with devilish delight and deviously danced into the tropical night. The cross was obviously never recovered, and sunken treasure exploration has never been the same. (sources: teddytucker.com / thescuttlefish.com)
The Patiala Necklace
When you are one of 2,930 diamonds in a necklace, it may be hard to stand out. That is, unless you are the “De Beers Diamond,” a 234 carat cutie, holding the distinction of the world’s 7th largest diamond (before it was cut, it’s carat weight was 428). These are just some of the gemstones that comprise the Patiala, which was made specifically for the eponymous maharaja in 1928, by a small local jeweler called “Cartier” – and who says men don’t like to wear jewelry? In any event, this necklace never really wanted to be in the spotlight: it went missing just two decades later. In a bizarre turn, it made a famous reappearance at the Geneva Sotheby’s in 1982, selling for $3.16 million (apparently the Swiss aren’t sticklers for producing certifications of ownership). However, it was revealed that many of the original stones were missing, including Burmese rubies and various other diamonds in the modest 18 to 73 carat range. Where those missing stones are is yet another enigma in the wide world of perpetually disappearing diamonds. (source: thehindu.com)
…more Missing Diamonds coming soon! (well, an article – not the actual diamonds …they’re missing.)