Through dogged searching for his lost gem on the Internet, a Florida jeweler has recovered the 6.04 ct. diamond that was swiped from his store a year and a half ago.
In September 2013, a group of distraction thieves snatched a 6.04 ct. diamond ring from St. Petersburg–based Old Northeast Jewelers. The stone, graded L SI1 by the Gemological Institute of America, was part of a platinum ring with two side sapphires.
“The thieves were a well-oiled machine,” says owner Jeffrey Hess. “They waited until two of my people were on break and were very adept at keeping people apart from other people. They stole the most expensive diamond we had—a 6.04 ct. diamond in a ring that retailed for $79,000.”
“I thought the stone was gone forever,” Hess says. “My wife said, ‘I have a feeling that the stone is going to come back.’ ”
The diamond had been graded by both the GIA and American Gem Society labs. Hess notified them both and they flagged the stone. Hess also searched every day for a similar stone through online services such as RapNet and CertNet.
“I figured a smart crook will have it recut,” he says. “But I checked every stone over 6 carats because I figured they wouldn’t go under that.”
After nine months, he spotted a report on an online service for a 6.04 ct. diamond, posted by a New York City jeweler. He downloaded the accompanying report and saw it had almost the exact same cut measurements, but different grades. It now bore a report from the Israel branch of European Gemological Laboratory (EGL), which called it an I VS.
Hess asked a jeweler friend to order the gem so it wouldn’t be sold. He then reached out to the local police and the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. After consulting with the GIA, the police determined the listed stone was the same as the one taken from Hess’ store. Police are now investigating how the New York City jeweler got his hands on it as well as the original theft, he says.
The diamond was confiscated but sat in evidence for nine months, until Hess received it last week.
“We kept asking for it back,” Hess says. “Finally it was returned.”
The store had insurance for the stone, but with a $50,000 deductible it received $12,000 for its loss. That will now have to be returned, and the setting and side stones remain missing. But all in all, Hess is thrilled. The jeweler even received nice publicity when the saga was reported by a local newspaper and TV station.
“It’s an amazing story,” he says. “The diamond went from south Florida to central Florida to Israel to New York, and now it’s back here.”
And he gives other jewelers two pieces of advice.
First, have a top-notch security system, “so police can catch the bad guys.”
And second, keep looking into things and “don’t give up.”@jckmagazine
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