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6 of the Biggest International Jewel Heists

Real-life jewelry heists can be every bit as dramatic as those shown in the movies. Take the brazen daylight holdup at a posh French hotel. Or the intricately planned robbery in the diamond capital of the world. Or the trio of surfer dudes daringly breaking into a famous New York museum’s fourth-floor window. Here’s a closer look at six times thieves stole millions of dollars worth of diamonds, gems, watches and more.

American Museum of Natural History 

New York City, October 1964

By day, Jack Murphy (a.k.a. “Murph the Surf”), Allan Kuhn and Roger Clark were a trio of well-dressed, 20-something surfer dudes from Miami, hanging out in a Manhattan hotel penthouse suite. But on the night of October 29, 1964, they put weeks of planning into action, breaking into the American Museum of Natural History and pulling off the biggest jewel caper in New York City history. While Clark served as lookout below, Murphy and Kuhn scaled a fence, climbed a fire escape, inched along a narrow ledge, hung a rope and swung themselves into the fourth-floor window outside the museum’s J.P. Morgan Hall of Gems and Minerals. Thanks to those windows (left open for ventilation), along with non-working display case alarms and just one security guard on duty, they were able to enter the Hall of Gems and use a glass cutter and duct tape to steal $410,000 worth of rare jewels (valued at around $3.9 million in 2023). They proceeded to make off with the 563-carat Star of India sapphire, the 100-carat DeLong Star Ruby and the 116-carat Midnight Star black sapphire, along with other gems. After being tipped off, police arrested the men two days later, and most of the gems were eventually recovered. After receiving much media attention as celebrity folk heroes, the thieves each served about two years in prison for the crime.

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