Gem Values Hold Steady

The Wittelsbach and Koh-i-Noor diamonds dazzle, but watch out for the Pink Panthers

The value of rare, large and high-quality diamonds and other gemstones remains high. At auction house Christie’s in December 2008, the legendary 35.52-carat Wittelsbach diamond, at one time ensconced in the Bavarian Crown Jewels, was put on the block, with expectations of a sale in the $15 million range. It sold for a record-shattering $24.3 million.

The massive 478-carat diamond recently discovered at the Leseng mine in the African kingdom of Lesotho, once it is cut and polished, is projected to sell for far more. Its large soon-to-be-cut size—expected to be bigger than the famed 105-carat round-cut Koh-i-Noor diamond nestled in the British Crown Jewels—should bring close to $50 million at auction, reports indicate.

But sales of more modest jewels are also projected to increase this year, and with them the need for proper protection through security and insurance.

Enter, Stage Left, the Pink Panthers

When diamond values rise, the number of diamond thefts is sure to follow. In 2003, when diamonds last peaked in value before skyrocketing to greater heights in 2007, the Pink Panthers went on the prowl. Not Peter Sellers and his fellow actors from the comedy films bearing the same name, but a notorious gang of international jewel thieves.

Since 2002, the gang of some 200 individuals is suspected of robbing more than 150 jewelry stores in 20 countries. Law enforcement officials believe the Pink Panthers have stolen jewels worth more than $500 million from stores in Dubai, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Monaco and elsewhere. They typically target the most high-end shops.

Although several Pink Panthers have been apprehended in the years since, most of the cat-like burglars—and their leader—remain at large. While the gang has yet to plant a flag in the United States, the rising value of diamonds ensures that others of their ilk will seek to take what doesn’t belong to them. In October 2010, a burglar broke into a home in Los Angeles County in California and made off with $100,000 worth of jewelry—including a blue topaz necklace and earrings valued at $42,000, a $26,000 2.5-carat diamond ring and a $24,000 diamond and emerald ring. Three arrests have been made, but the jewelry remains missing.

Next Blog:  Understanding Jewelry Appraisals

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