Recovering a Stolen Diamond: Video, Vigilance, Victory

In September of 2013, a couple entered Old Northeast Jewelers in Tampa, Florida to look at jewellery. After a request to see a watch in a front display case the salesman left the case unlocked while he showed the watch. While the couple distracted the salesman, a third person entered the store, removed an $80,000 ring containing a 6 carat diamond and left with the item. (video here) Jeff and Katrina Hess, the owners of the store, figured they would never see the diamond again. But that did not stop them from constantly scouring industry diamond databases searching for a 6.04 carat diamond with measurements matching the missing gem. 15 months later they finally recovered the stone.


Jeff Hess examined recovered diamond

There are several good lessons to be learned from this story:

1. Always be alert when there are several people on your store. Be sure to lock cases when showing jewellery and call more sales help to the floor to provide additional eyes to watch for problems. This crime was perpetrated by a well-polished team of slick professionals but additional floor staff may have prevented the theft.

2. Video surveillance is a necessity in our business. It may not prevent a theft, but it can help identify suspects leading to an arrest. A good idea is to have at least one high definition camera disguised as a motion detector, fire alarm or a light switch at eye level near the door to get a clear face shot of everyone that enters the store. Cameras in the ceiling will only show the tops of heads and not faces. You need a clear image of a face to aid in arrest or recovery.

3. Don’t count on the police to recover the goods for you. The most they can do is file a report for your insurance and keep a watch for other similar crimes. They may get lucky and arrest the crooks but recovery of stolen goods is rare. You need to pursue recovery yourself. While the world is a large place, our industry is relatively small. Rare or unusual stones will eventually re-enter the market and may be found; unless the thieves are smart enough to re-cut the stone. Constant vigilance can pay off as it did in this case. Of course your chances of recovering common goods may be quite slim but it never hurts to keep trying.

Hats off to the Jeff and Katrina Hess. Their persistence in searching and never giving up allowed the good guys to win this one!

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