Diamond Stolen From, Then Returned to, Natural History Museum

Just as diamonds can pop up in strange places, so do diamond thieves.

In a bizarre incident, a 3 ct. rough diamond was stolen from—and then quickly returned to—the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. 

The non-faceted piece of rough was part of an exhibit on volcanoes, says public information officer Randall Gann, demonstrating what can be produced with extreme heat and pressure.

“Someone used some sort of tool to pry the lock off of it and bend back the shatterproof case,” he says. “It kind of surprised us because, as our thief found out, it’s not worth a ton of money. It’s been on display since 1986 with zero problems.”

There aren’t even security cameras in that part of the exhibit, says director of exhibits production Mike Pierce.

“It’s in a pretty popular part of museum that simulates walking through a volcano,” he says. “It’s too dark to have a standard camera.”

Once the rock was discovered missing, Pierce sent out the word to his local contacts in the gem and jewelry community. He eventually heard from four local jewelers, who said someone had tried to sell the stone to them.

Eventually, the thief did sell it for $400.

“The vendor may have found out about either through a gem alert or heard about it on the news,” Pierce says. “But they contacted us and said they weren’t aware this was stolen and believed it was ours.”

Pierce believes the cooperation of the local gemological community allowed the rock to be returned so quickly. But he’s mystified that anyone would try to steal it in the first place.

“It’s a geological specimen,” he says. “The point of the exhibit is that volcanoes turn carbon into diamonds. Even if it was cut, you would end up with a dozen yellow diamonds. The color and clarity are very poor.”

Police are now investigating the incident. The stone has since been returned to the museum and has been locked away in a vault. For the time being, the volcano exhibit is now closed.

“To my knowledge, we have never had anything happen to us like this before,” Pierce says. “We put the diamond out there so we can teach people. It’s just unfortunate that someone would sink to that level and take something away from a kid who might want to learn something. That’s pretty low.”

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