There are certain gemstones that are so beautiful and so rare that they achieve worldwide notoriety. However, for one of these gemstones to achieve infamy, there is one requirement: it has to have been stolen. Believe it or not, jewelry theft is actually quite common. There are some jewelry heists that people in and out of the jewelry world will be talking about for years to come. The De Long Star Ruby currently resides in the Museum of Natural History in New York City. It has a magnificent red hue with a luminous asterism, a six-rayed star, and weighs a whopping 100.32 carats. Its story is one of rich history, drama and intrigue.
The De Long Star Ruby is said to have been found in the Moguk mines of Burma in the early twentieth century. This area is notorious for producing the type of energy needed to create such beautiful gemstones. Burmese legend says that the rubies were first discovered in the area by Moguk outlaws in the 15th century. When they found the precious gems, they sent them to the king and were pardoned for their crimes. The king then mandated that all rubies found in area mines were property of the kingdom. From then on, rubies from these mines set the standard for exceptional rubies worldwide. The De Long Star Ruby was purchased in the 1930’s by Marin Leo Ehfmann. He sold the ruby in 1937 to Mrs. Edith Hagging de Long for $21,400; who then donated it to the American Museum of Natural History that very year.
The ruby was placed in the museum’s J.P Morgan Hall of Gems with other famous gemstones. It remained safe and untouched for decades that is until 1964. Four thieves, including a well-known surfer named Jack Murphy, came up with a plot to steal several of the famous gems at the exhibit. The men carefully cased out the museum and, on October 29, 1964, entered the museum after hours through a second story bathroom window that they had left opened. The men managed to steal 22 gemstones, including the “Star of India” and the “De Long Star Ruby”, which was estimated to be worth $400,000 at the time. However, the men faced a problem: gemstones that are famous are very difficult to sell to private collectors. These people would have known that the gems were stolen. Within 48 hours, the police had received several tips on the whereabouts of the thieves and the gems. The men were arrested in Miami and New York. Authorities were able to recover most of the gems in, of all places, a locker in a Miami bus station. All of the men involved in the jewelry theft were given three year prison sentences for their role in the now infamous crime.
The De Long Star Ruby was not found among the other gems. While investigating sources for a story on jewelry heists, a local writer learned that the gem was being held by a Miami gang as collateral for a loan, and would only be released when the loan was paid. The writer helped negotiate a deal between the gang and billionaire John D. MacArthur to pay $25,000 for the recovery of the gem. It was recovered after the money was dropped off at a phone booth in Florida. After MacArthur had the gem appraised, he decided to house the ruby at the First Marine Bank until it could be safely transported back to the American Museum of Natural History.
When the American Museum of Natural History in New York reintroduced the De Long Star Ruby to the public on September 5th, 1965, over 10,000 people came to the museum to see it. This case has all of the makings of a good action film. Even Hollywood took notice, the infamous heist was made into a movie called “Murph the Surph” in 1975.