Young World

Heist, most spectacular

Rare gem: A blue sapphire. Photo: Special Arrangement  

On January 8, 1965 the Star of India returned to the American Museum of Natural History from where it had disappeared almost three months ago.

The Star of India is a 563.35 carat, star sapphire. It is one of the largest of such gems in the world. It is almost flawless and what is unusual is that it has stars on both sides of the stone. The greyish, blue gem was mined in Sri Lanka and is housed in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, U.S.

George Kunz, was a mineralogist and Tiffany gem expert. He was commissioned by a financier named J.P. Morgan to acquire an impressive gem collection for the Paris Exposition in 1900. Kunz procured several gems including the Star of India. After the exposition, Kunz donated the gems to the American Museum of Natural History. The only known history of the gem is that it came from Sri Lanka.

Child’s play

On October 29, 1964, three boys from Miami crept into the grounds of New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. After crossing the fence to the museum’s courtyard, they went up a fire escape to secure a rope to a pillar just above the fourth-floor windows of the J.P. Morgan Hall of Gems and Minerals. Clinging to the rope, one of them swung in through a window, they had left open during Museum hours.

Using a glasscutter and duct tape Dale Kuhn, Roger Clark and Jack Roland Murphy breached three display cases and stole 24 gems. The gems stolen included the Star of India, Midnight Star, the DeLong Star Ruby and the Eagle Diamond. The sapphire was the only one protected by an alarm and the battery was dead. The stolen stones were worth more than $4,00,000. None of the gems was insured as the premiums were high.

An informer, James Walsh told detectives about a party thrown by three guys at the Cambridge House Hotel on West 86th Street — a short walk from the Natural History Museum. He said he had found them spending money like wild. When police raided the party they found marijuana, a floor plan of the Natural History Museum and books about precious stones. Murphy and Kuhn had flown to Florida. FBI agents arrested them for extradition to New York. But, the New York judge considered Nadjari’s case shaky and set a low bail for the two. On December 1, a Miami court dismissed federal charges.

Soon, Murphy and Clark were arrested for a Miami burglary. With that, the pending case of the stolen jewels reopened and they saw their bail being raised to $100,000. Kuhn, Murphy and Clark decided to negotiate.

Kuhn said he could recover the gems — if only he could go to Miami alone. The trip was not easy with police and press interference but they found the gems inside a bus locker in Miami.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 6:04:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/Heist-most-spectacular/article13995852.ece

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