“It could have been the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster: a thief creeps into a Cannes hotel room after dark and effortlessly makes off with over $1m worth of jewels destined to be worn by stars on the red carpet of theÂ film festival.
The massive jewellery theft in the early hours of Friday was quickly likened to a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950s Riviera robbery thriller, To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, where a mysterious cat burglar snatches the jewels of the rich and famous on the CĂ´tĂ© d’Azur. But stranger still was the fact that the robbery took place just as all flashbulbs and press packs were focusing on Thursday night’s premiere of Sofia Coppola’s new film theÂ Bling Ring, based on the true story of a group of suburban Los Angeles teenagers who stole luxury goods, jewels and watches from the houses of the rich and famous out of a desire to possess their wardrobes and emulate their lifestyles.
A safe box containing more than ÂŁ660,000 worth of jewellery by the exclusive Swiss jeweller and watchmaker Chopard was removed from the wall of a room at the Suite Novotel. The room was reserved for an employee of the firm, which has sponsored the festival for 16 years and leads the way in the fiercely competitive race to showcase precious stones on the throats of the most famous stars.
On Friday, police continued to interview the Chopard employee, reportedly an American, as well as hotel staff at the Suite Novotel, a grey, modern block situated near a police station and a 15-minute walk from the more luxurious hotels of the Croisette. They were also examining hotel surveillance cameras.
Commander Bernard Mascarelli, a judicial police spokesman in Nice, said he did not know the precise type of jewels taken or their exact value. “Numbers have been put forward that we’re still trying to verify, but the figure of $1m … we’re in that range,” he said.
“Apparently this [hotel guest] was someone who was targeted because it wasn’t someone who had been seeking attention … There must have been either an inside complicity, or people who were in contact with this person and knew that the person had jewels,” he said.
“It seems pretty unlikely to us that it was just one person,” Mascarelli said, referring to the perpetrators.
Chopard and the Novotel declined to comment on the heist. TheÂ Cannes film festivalÂ said only that the Palme d’Or award, 118 grams of yellow gold worth more than â‚¬20,000 which is awarded for the best film, was “safe”. The trophy is designed and supplied by Chopard each year.
That the Cannes film festival would one day fall prey to a massive red-carpet jewel heist is not farfetched. True to the accepted wisdom that film-stars are a diamond’s best friend, the Riviera gathering has become as much about jewellery and fashion product placement as cinema. Each year, millions of pounds worth of precious stones and haute couture gowns are concentrated on the city synonymous with palm-trees and bling.
An influx of hundreds of hairdressers clock up on average three miles of walking a day each as they rush back and forth to hairspray quiffs into shapes that best show off diamonds dangling from earlobes.
Chopard, has about 40 staff at the festival each year co-ordinating the showcasing of its jewellery on stars, in competition with other big industry names such as Bulgari. At the Oscars or at Cannes, pieces worth millions are lent to stars who feature prominently on fashion pages.
Since the Cannes festival began on Wednesday, Chopard had already showcased jewellery on actors such as Julianne Moore and models including Cara Delevingne and Georgia May Jagger. At the Oscars, stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet and Christina Hendricks have worn Chopard jewellery.
Caroline Scheufele, co-vice-president of Chopard,Â told the Evening StandardÂ earlier this week that the firm prepares for Cannes by taking requests from actors and their stylists: “The Americans are so organised. They know what dress they’re wearing months before and they tell us how their hair will be.
“The Europeans are much cooler about the whole thing. They don’t have an entourage around them. Things can change at the last minute.”
Despite fears for the poor bare collar-bones of famous stars, robbed of their diamonds for the weekend’s premieres, the Cannes film festival continued uninterrupted on Friday.
It’s not the first major robbery in Cannes. During last year’s film festival the international Senegalese footballers, Souleymane Diawara and Mamadou Niang, had four luxury watches worth around ÂŁ340,000 stolen from their villa on the outskirts of Cannes. In February this year, thieves in broad daylight robbed a shop on the Croisette and made off with 150 luxury watches estimated to be worth about ÂŁ800,0000. In 2009, an armed gang stole several million pounds worth of jewels from a Cartier shop on the Croisette.
Chopard itself recorded around ÂŁ6m worth of jewels stolen from its flagship Paris store in 2009 by a man in his 50s who casually walked in wearing a suit and Borsalino-style hat, passing himself off as a customer before pulling out a handgun. He was suspected to be part of an international gang known as the Pink Panthers. The stolen jewellery has never been recovered.”
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