In my past posts on stolen art, I’ve mostly focused on stolen paintings. Sometimes the thieves also took jewelry or vases or other valuable artifacts from the homes and museums they looted. The items they stole were often easy to transport (small) and easy to sell (not easily recognizable).
However, quite a few thieves didn’t take size or the ability to trade the treasure for money into consideration. Here are two examples.
The Patiala Necklace
What does the wise thief do after stealing a one-of-a-kind necklace adorned with almost 3000 diamonds and several Burmese rubies?
Apparently, he breaks it into pieces.
This particular necklace, consisting of five platinum chains and a neck-collar, was designed by Cartier International in 1928 for the Maharaja of the Patiala, a princely state in British India.
|The Patiala Necklace|
Trivia ~ Cartier, the French manufacturer of exquisite jewelry, was founded by Louis-François Cartier in 1847.
The diamond at the necklace’s centerpiece weighed almost 235 carats. At the time, this singular jewel was the world’s seventh-largest known diamond, the largest cushion-cut yellow diamond, and the world’s second largest faceted yellow diamond.
Seven other diamonds among the thousands ranged in weight from eighteen to seventy-three carats.
Trivia ~ A carat is a unit of weight equivalent to 200 milligrams. A karat measures the amount of gold in an alloy with 24 karats being pure gold.
Sometime around 1948, the Patiala Necklace disappeared from the Royal Treasury. Over thirty years later, the large yellow diamond—but not the necklace—turned up at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, Switzerland.
|Maharaja of Patiala Wearing the Cartier Necklace|
Almost twenty years after that, in 1998, a Cartier associate found part of the necklace—without the other large diamonds and the rubies—at a second-hand jewelry store in London, England.
Cartier purchased the one-of-a-kind necklace and replaced the lost diamonds with fake ones. Even so, it’s value is approximately $50 million (Robins).
The Fabergé Egg
Between 1885 to 1916, the Russian Imperial family commissioned 52 jewel-encrusted Easter eggs, often with a surprise inside, from the House of Fabergé. The annual tradition ended in 1917 when the Romanovs (the last czar and his family) were murdered by the Bolsheviks.
Trivia ~ The famed House of Fabergé was founded by Gustav Faberge, who added the accent, in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1842. “Either he considered the accent gave his name style, or added it as ‘ge’ in Russian is pronounced ‘jay’” (Fabergé).
|Gustave and Charlotte Fabergé|
Technically, the Imperial eggs weren’t stolen but seized by the new government. Needing money more than Imperial Stalin later auctioned all but ten of the eggs.
Fast forward to 2013 when a scrap metal dealer bought “a gold egg at a [midwest flea] market,” researched the inscription he found inside the egg, and discovered it was one of the famous Imperial Eggs and worth $33 million (Robin).
The flea market find “turned out to be the third Fabergé egg ever made—Tsar Alexander III's 1887 Easter gift to his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. It was…quickly snapped up by a private buyer” (Hollington).
Most of the Imperial Eggs are in private collections or museums. The ones that are still missing “are most likely floating around far-less-reputable markets: black or flea, to be exact” (Minium).
|"Danish Jubilee" ~ Missing Imperial Egg|
However, it’s also likely that the missing eggs are in private collections or went missing in the chaos surrounding the Russian Revolution (Roller).
Johnnie imagines inspiring stories in multiple genres. A fan of classic movies, stacks of books, and road trips, she shares a life of quiet adventure with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Visit her at johnnie-alexander.com.
Patiala Necklace ~ Creative Commons
“The World of Fabergé.” Fabergé. (Retrieved October 8, 2022.)
Hollington, Kris. “The Five Most Wanted Pieces of Stolen Art.” Newsweek. (Posted July 12, 2014; retrieved October 8, 2022.)
Minium, Alice. “The Real Reason We Can’t Find the Missing Romanov Faberge Eggs.” Grunge. (Posted January 5, 2022; retrieved October 8, 2022).
Robins, Becki. “The Most Expensive Items Ever Stolen.” Grunge. (Posted April 20, 2020; retrieved October 7, 2022.)
Roller, Sarah. “The Mystery of the Missing Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs.” History Hit. (Posted November 17, 2021; retrieved October 8, 2022.)