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Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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Stolen diamond returned to Tampa jeweler after 17 months

A diamond that traveled the world after thieves stole it more than 17 months ago arrived back at a St. Petersburg jewelry store Tuesday.

On Sept. 30, 2013, a 6.04-carat diamond ring valued at nearly $80,000 was stolen from Old Northeast Jewelers’ store in Tampa’s International Plaza, 2223 West Shore Blvd. Three people working as a team distracted an employee and made off with the ring.

Since then it has been to New York, Israel, back to New York and, finally, back to the Tampa Bay area, authorities said.

“You hear a lot about people having jewelry stolen,” said Katrina Hess, an owner and gemologist at Old Northeast Jewelers, which is based in northeast St. Petersburg. “You rarely hear about it being recovered.”

Hess and her husband, Jeffrey Hess, a co-owner, filed a police report and released surveillance footage of the presumed thieves in the Tampa store, but didn’t have any luck finding the ring until April.

Jeffrey Hess was looking at websites advertising stones and came across one he recognized as part of the stolen ring. The Hesses contacted the Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit gem research institute, and the couple believed they had enough evidence to secure a warrant, Katrina Hess said.

The ring’s centerpiece stone had been removed from its band and graded in Israel. Katrina Hess said gemstone laboratories in the United States that evaluate stones had been made aware of the theft.

New York police seized the stone, and Tuesday morning it finally arrived at the St. Petersburg store at 1131 4th Street N. — nearly one year after it was recovered.

“We didn’t believe it was coming back until it was here,” Katrina Hess said.

The ring was shipped to St. Petersburg by the U.S. Postal Service, in doubled boxes.

Now that the stone has returned, Katrina Hess said she isn’t sure exactly what the jewelers are going to do with it. She said they might just sell it as a loose stone, instead of fitting it for another band.

Katrina Hess said New York police have identified one man involved in the theft, and have issued a warrant for his arrest. She said police told her the theft was carried out by a professional group that knew what it was doing.

The New York Police Department did not immediately return an email to provide more information about the diamond’s recovery.

Since the September 2013 theft, Katrina Hess said the importance of keeping an eye out for thefts in the Tampa and St. Petersburg stores has been reiterated, especially when there are multiple customers in either store.

“Jewelers have to be aware of security stuff and unfortunately this kind of stuff does happen,” she said. “But to recover it has been amazing.”

The Hesses never stopped hoping they one day would find the stone, Katrina Hess said, and getting it back shows “good things still happen out there.”

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