The Krupp Diamond: Recovering One of the World's Most Expensive Jewels

The Krupp Diamond Image: gemsaboutjewels.blogspot.com

The Krupp Diamond
Image: gemsaboutjewels.blogspot.com

Before it was known as the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, the 33-carat diamond ring was owned by a wealthy woman named Vera Krupp.  After acquiring a fortune from her German ex-husband, the divorcee wore the precious ring wherever she went.  The American baroness who owned a ranch in Southwest Las Vegas lived a quiet life until the theft happened in April 1959. 


The Theft

Image: FBI.gov

Image: FBI.gov

As Krupp and her foreman were having dinner at home, three suspicious men knocked on her door offering to fix the surface of her driveway.  Eventually, these three men forced their way into the home and tried to pull the ring out of the woman’s fingers to the point of injuring her.  Afterwards, the men tied up and blindfolded Krupp and her companion.

The whole ordeal was a carefully planned heist.  The three men knew where to look and what to take from the household.  Aside from the ring, which cost more than $250,000 during that time, the thieves got $700,000 worth of cash, a revolver, and a camera.

When the two got free, they, unfortunately, couldn't call authorities because the ranch's phone was not working. The two had to travel to the Las Vegas airport to report the incident. When the FBI was informed, the bureau had a hunch that the thieves were planning to transport the diamond to a different state. 


The Suspects

Suspect James Reeves Image: FBI.gov

Suspect James Reeves
Image: FBI.gov

The prime suspect identified by the FBI went by the name John William Hagenson who was involved in a similar crime in California. After following him around from state to state, authorities finally took him into custody in Louisiana. Unfortunately, the diamond wasn't in his possession at that time. The search continued until the FBI received a report that a diamond was being sold in Newark, New Jersey. One agent followed James Reves, one of the three thieves. After apprehending Reeves, agents discovered that the ring was disassembled, and the large diamond was found in the lining of Reeves's coat. The two smaller ones were eventually recovered at a jewelry store in St. Louis.

Hagenson, Reves, and their other accomplices were subsequently arrested, charged and found guilty.

Eventually, Vera Krupp was able to reassemble her ring, but after the traumatic experience, she decided to live austerely. After her death, the ring was sold for $305,000 to actor Richard Burton who gave it to his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor.