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Brussels Diamond Heist – Can You Tell if a Diamond is Stolen?

Diamonds are forever, but some can’t hang on to them forever. On Tuesday, eight thieves disguised as airport police boarded a jet bound for Switzerland and stole $50 million in diamonds. With the help of their camouflaged masks, sub-machine guns and police cars, they were able to successfully evade law enforcement to pull of one of the biggest diamond heists in the history of the world. The diamonds, some of which were cut, and others rough, were being held in 120 packages on the plane. The robbers drove onto the tarmac and boarded the plane before holding the pilots and crew-members at gunpoint. 180 seconds later, it was over, and the thieves were gone.

Antwerp, the site of the heist, is one of the centers of the world’s diamond trade. The city is host to over 80% of the world’s rough diamond trade and 50% of the gem trade. This is no surprise that the city would be the target of jewel thieves, but it is surprising that they were able to pull it off. Only 10 years ago, the city’s diamond center was relieved of over $100 million in diamonds from another group of robbers. Supposedly, security had been increased in the following years. Unfortunately, it was not enough.

Before exporting, most industrial countries require a specific certificate that tells where a rough diamond was mined, and where it comes from. This process can expose blood diamonds as well as stolen diamonds. Unfortunately, these certificates can be forged. It is likely that the thieves will take the diamonds to India, where most diamonds are cut. Once the diamond is cut, it is essentially impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the diamond. After the diamonds are cut, they will likely be traded multiple times among less strict nations of the middle east and Asia. One reassuring thing is that reputable dealers in the U.S. never buy diamonds from sources such as these.