Paris, France — The Kim Kardashian robbery, thought by some to be a publicity stunt or an insurance scam, pales in comparison to one of history’s most notorious jewel thefts, the Krupp Diamond Robbery. Kim’s jewel — a $4.9 million, 15-carat diamond — is less than half the size of the Krupp stone.
Later part of Elizabeth Taylor’s stunning jewelry collection, the Krupp ring boasted an enormous central bluish-white diamond that, at over 33 carats, was the size of a small marble. That gem was flanked by two smaller baguette-shaped accent diamonds.
The entire ring was valued at $275,000 in the late 1950s; in 2011 the Krupp Diamond alone was sold by Taylor’s estate for nearly $9 million.
When the robbery took place on the evening of April 10, 1959, the ring was owned by Vera Krupp. She was the attractive divorced wife of wealthy German industrialist Baron Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. He had made a fortune producing military hardware for the Nazis, and after World War II he was convicted of war crimes.
Like Kim Kardashian, Vera Krupp was not shy about flaunting her wealth. She wore the massive ring everywhere she went.
At the time of robbery she was lounging at her Nevada ranch 25 miles southwest of Las Vegas. She’d just finished dinner when some men knocked on the door and offered to blacktop the property’s long driveway.
But almost immediately they forced their way into the ranch house, tore the ring from Vera Krupp’s finger so violently that they drew blood, and blindfolded and tied up Mrs. Krupp, along with her ranch foreman, using cord from a lamp.
Like the Kardashian thieves, who took other items (Kim’s jewelry box, worth about $5 million) the Krupp robbers also stole $700,000 in cash, a handgun, and a valuable camera.
After the crooks left, Vera and her foreman managed to free themselves, and soon the FBI was alerted and took over what came to be called “The Krupp Diamond Theft Case.”
Meanwhile in Vegas the robbers decided that one of them, a gambler named James George Reves, would sell the diamond intact, without having it cut into smaller jewels to disguise it. Reves and his wife traveled the U.S. seeking a fence for the gem. On their way across the country they unloaded the ring’s two side baguette diamonds in Chicago before arriving in New Jersey.
The FBI’s main suspect, robbery mastermind John William Hagenson, was tracked and arrested in Louisiana. The agency issued an all-points be-on-the-lookout bulletin that a massive stolen diamond would soon be coming up for sale.
By late May, an FBI agent in Newark, New Jersey, learned that a grocer was trying to fence the gem. That man quickly ratted out his accomplice, and in a bust at cheap lodgings called the Cadillac Motel, agents arrested James Reves and found the Krupp Diamond hidden in the lining of a jacket. The two baguettes were later recovered from a St. Louis jeweler.
The crooks went on trial that November. Reves, Hagenson, and several accomplices were found guilty, although Hagenson was later released after a winning appeal.
The beautiful diamond was returned to Vera Krupp, who, although she continued to wear it openly at times, more often kept it well hidden and never again flaunted the ring or other valuables.
Let’s hope Kim Kardashian does the same.