The Great Pearl Heist of 1913

The Great Pearl Heist by Mary Caldwell Crosby

The Great Pearl Heist by Mary Caldwell Crosby

In 1913, a criminal mastermind engineered the theft of the world’s most expensive strand of pearls — a prize worth around $18 million in today’s dollars.

But by modern standards, the most shocking aspect of the crime was not that it happened, but that the pearls were able to be stolen because they were sent by regular mail.

“The Great Pearl Heist” tells the story of criminal mastermind Joseph Grizzard and his gang, and the Sherlock Holmes figure tasked with catching him, elite Scotland Yard detective Alfred Ward.

Grizzard was such a composed and accomplished criminal that when police searched his premises regarding an earlier diamond heist, he welcomed them with a smile despite entertaining guests at the time — a collection of potential buyers for those very diamonds. The police found nothing and left, at which point Grizzard returned to eating his now “tepid” pea soup — and then “pulled a long string of diamonds from the bottom of the bowl.”

The strand of 61 pearls belonged to a dealer named Max Mayer, who would occasionally send it to prospective buyers for inspection.

Grizzard’s main collaborator was a master thief named James Lockett. Lockett had been arrested many times, but as this was before the age of fingerprints, thieves could give different names every time they were nicked and receive short sentences since they were always “first-time offenders.”

Read entire account of the Great pearl heist of 1913 here.

Interview with Mary Caldwell Crosby, author of The Great Pearl Heist

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