Nightly News   |  July 29, 2013

Jewelers uneasy after Cannes heist

Police say a single suspect disguised in a hat and scarf managed to steal $136 million, in one of the world’s largest heists. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> finally tonight, it's not supposed to be this easy. in the movies it's one thing, but in real life it's something else, walking into a famous hotel during a jewelry show, brandishing a gun and then walking out with over $130 million in jewels? but it happened in the south of france, and now the search is on all over for some very expensive, very shiny things. our report tonight from nbc's stephanie gosk.

>> reporter: the scene of the crime , the carlton hotel , was made famous by hitchcock's "to catch a thief."

>> even in this light i can tell where your eyes are looking.

>> reporter: now it's famous for a real life caper. french police say a single suspect disguised with hat and scarf pulled off this seemingly flawless heist in under a minute. in the middle of the day he snuck through french doors , pulled a handgun and held up three security guards , a manager and two jewellers. 72 pieces of jewelry in hand, he ran out the back.

>> this crime was about as brazen as it gets. i mean, it's a guy coming in off the street, into a fancy hotel, holding a gun and just getting all these diamonds and getting out.

>> reporter: diamonds are irresistible.

>> that's where the money is. i mean, in a very small package you can get such a high value. can you get an extraordinary value. richard burton gave the diamond to elizabeth taylor and sold for $5 million back in 1978 . a replica of the "titanic" diamond is worth more than $20 million. this one in queen elizabeth 's crown is priceless. there's still no suspects in the carlton hotel robbery, but just last week a jewel thief from the notorious pink panther gang was sprung from a swiss jail. this theft has many of the hallmarks of the spash-and-grab tactics that the pink panthers are known for making jewellers worldwide uneasy. we caught up with a few at a trade show in new york.

>> i don't know who is going to buy these stones.

>> reporter: one family has been at this business for four generations. just with this ring and necklace, this necklace and that bracelet.

>> you ran a tab of over half a million here.

>> reporter: over half a million. the carlton hotel thieves escaped with much, much more. police are calling it the biggest jewelry heist in history. stephanie gosk, nbc news, new york.