Hunt for Stolen Kashmiri Sapphire Takes Mysterious Turn

KL NEWS NETWORK

SRINAGAR

A rare Kashmiri sapphire set for auction with an asking price of up to $12 million has taken a mysterious turn.

In 1996, when the Horovitz & Totah (H&T) jewellers had offered for auction a Cartier bracelet bearing a stunning 65.16-carat unheated Kashmiri sapphire with an unusual elongated cushion-cut.

On November 14 that year, days before the anticipated sale in Geneva focused exclusively on Cartier jewels, auction house Antiquorum displayed the pieces at the Four Seasons hotel in Milan.

According to media reports, more than 50 people were in the viewing room when the bracelet, the main attraction of the show, vanished.

H&T’s insurers dished out the $1.8 million — the price they had expected to fetch at the time — and H&T put the uncomfortable incident behind them.

Until November 8, 2015, when he received an e-mail from Phillips offering a Geneva viewing of a 59.57-carat Kashmir Sapphire ahead of an auction in New York.

H&T did not view the stone, but studied the certificate carefully.

He suggested the sapphire being offered by Phillips had been filed down to just under the 60-carat mark to make it less spectacular and noteworthy.

H&T contacted Phillips to voice his suspicions, and also put in a call to his insurers, who had become the rightful owners of the stolen gem.

But when the insurers contacted Phillips, they learned that the auction house had withdrawn the sapphire from the sale, and sent it back to its alleged, undisclosed owner in New York.

Worried the stone had vanished again, the insurers hired New York lawyer Owen Carragher to help track it down.

According to court filings, he determined that a company named Auction House 43, based in New York’s diamond district, had presented the sapphire to Phillips for auction.

The firm is owned by a Boris Aronov, who also owns a number of other companies, including Modern Pawn Broker, listed at the same address.

Court filings indicate that the pawn broker received the sapphire and other jewels from a man named Rafael Koblence in 2011 as collateral for a $3.75-million loan.

Koblence, who according to Le Temps is in fact a business partner of Aronov, failed to repay the loan, offered at an annual interest rate of 60 percent — or more than $6,000 a day.

Modern Pawn foreclosed and said his collateral would be sold at auction, court documents showed.

Carragher obtained a court order on December 23 calling for Modern Pawn to turn over the sapphire for examination and blocking “the defendants from transferring, selling, altering or in any way disposing of” the stone.

Modern Pawn has until January 29 to oppose that order.

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