By Clive Kandel
I received a telephone call last week from a friend in London, who works for a world-famous jeweler directly opposite Graff Diamonds. He was excitedly telling me that a robbery had just taken place about 10 minutes earlier, and Bond Street had turned into the Wild West for all of two minutes. Since then, I have received many e-mails and calls with the hot gossip. I was uninterested, blase and nonchalant. My reaction was “What else is new?” Please allow me to explain why.
I will make this as short as possible. That’s how I feel about Graff’s latest robbery. Many years ago, I owned a jewelry store 100 yards away from Graff. I took it as a great compliment that we were never robbed. You see, my window was full of Art Deco Cartier and similar jewels — no one would rob us for those, while Graff displays millions of pounds worth of single diamonds and so forth in his window. That is what the crooks are after. Mind you, as we have recently learned, crooks are after Art Deco Cartier but they have nonviolent ways of stealing it.
Jewelry historians might like to know that Lacloche Freres occupied the building to the right of Graff until WWII.
Bond Street and the surrounding area is built on cattle tracks, old gutters and winding little roads. I am old enough to remember Bond Street running traffic in both directions from Oxford Street through to Piccadilly. That was changed in the late 1950’s. I am also old enough to remember when armed thieves drove a Jaguar through the Burlington Arcade and had a free-for-all with the multitude of Court Jewelers’ shops, smashing windows and sending dapper jewelry salesmen and tiaras flying all over this elegant arcade that is now home to a mishmash of tourist boutiques. Curving, criss-crossing narrow streets have been made one-way so police can chase the crooks, who easily disappear in a maze, thereby turning this into a game of “Now you see me, now you don’t.”
The most reprehensible situation is that the famous West End Central Police Station is practically at the back of Lawrence Graff’s shop. The London Police spokeswoman has asked if anyone from the public could “come forward if they know who the robbers are”. I hope she has the teapot ready, and a large bowl of sugar. I am waiting for a Balkan shepherd to stop by for a nice cuppa and tell her where the gangsters are.
Since armed guards and gun possession are illegal in the U.K., jewelers may be at a disadvantage. This new breed of robber is not deterred by guns, so it is just as well, and preferable, to let them take the stones rather than lives. London buildings and residences rarely have security as we know it in New York. I had a very close friend who was reputed to have been the wealthiest woman in Britain. She lived in the same house as the Westminsters-they own the center of London-and Mr. Oppenheimer-he owned De Beers Diamonds. I was always amazed that although there was no doorman or any form of security, they were never robbed. That would not happen in New York, but then Graff does not get robbed in New York either.
Graff has been raided many times in London. Until 1975, S.J. Phillips had a “show and tell” window display of huge diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire single stone rings, until gunmen removed the eye candy and ran around the corner down a mews into a waiting car. There have been so many more hold ups that I could tell you about but I wanted to keep this short. I hope this will explain why I am not surprised, and sound blase about this “Here We Go Again” London heist. Good job I can make my own tea, because I have no idea who did it. If you do, and you like tea, call West End Central Police Station in Savile Row, London W.1. Tel 011 44 207 437 1212.
Images Courtesy of Christies Images, Sotheby’s Images, V & A , British Museum,
and Clive Kandel Collection