Thursday, 25 February 2016

Mystery of Plundered Nazi Treasure

They are some of the greatest treasures the world has ever known, from priceless artworks to fabulous hoards of diamonds and vast reserves of gold. And they have all been missing since the chaotic dying days of the Second World War.

The Nazis plundered loot from across Europe, and, as they faced defeat in 1945, frantically hid it from advancing Allied forces. Some were stashed away while other pieces were smuggled out of Berlin by high-ranking Hitler henchmen to fund their own escapes and new lives. But as leading Nazis were killed or captured, the secret locations of much of the loot were lost forever. In 2014 it was revealed that a collection of 1,500 paintings worth £850m had been found festering in a squalid apartment in Munich.

The collection, which included masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse and Chagall, had been hidden by Cornelius Gurlitt , the 80-year-old son of an art dealer trusted by the Nazis to dispose of seized artworks.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum believes the Nazis seized as many 16,000 works of art as they pillaged their way across Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

Along with Hitler’s diamond collection and the entire gold reserves of the Reichsbank, these are just a few of the valuable Nazi treasures still missing.
Before being stolen by the SS, the Amber Room was one of Russia’s most famous heirlooms, a stunning chamber at the Tsarskoye Selo palace near St Petersburg that was covered in amber panels backed with gold and mirrors. When the Germans invaded, the curators tried to hide the panels behind mundane wallpaper.

The disguise failed and in October 1941 German soldiers dismantled the Amber Room and shipped the panels to Konigsberg Castle in East Prussia, where they went on display. What happened to them remains shrouded in mystery. The German official in charge of the panels claimed they were placed in crates and stored in a castle that burned down during an air raid. Other experts believe the regime tried to ship the Amber Room out of the country, only for the ship carrying it to sink in the Baltic Sea.
Treasure hunters believe the panels, which are worth more than £150m, were buried 6,000 feet underground in old woodland mines near Zwickau in East Germany. Eyewitnesses claimed SS commandos sealed off the woods and dumped a secret cargo there early in 1945.

Despite countless fortune hunters flocking there, the mine has never been found.
Historians are using RAF surveillance photos taken by Mosquito fighter bombers as they flew over Germany during the Second World War to hunt for a bunker containing £500m of Nazi gold.
Truck loads of gold were shipped out of Berlin in 1945 as the Red Army advanced and treasure hunters believe it was buried by Nazi labour battalions in the Leinawald forest near Leipzig in eastern Germany.

The German government began digging for the lost gold in 1961, but had to stop when poison gases from old mines began seeping to the surface. Treasure hunters believe that one RAF reconnaissance photo shows sand workings that resemble the outline of a human skull and could point the way to the bunker.
During the final months of the war the SS dragged a stash of metal crates to the shores of Lake Toplitz, in the Salzkammergut region of Austria and dumped them into the icy waters. In 1959 the German magazine Stern sent a team of divers to the lake to investigate the stories.

They found no gold, but they did find crates of counterfeit British pounds, secret documents and a printing press.
Other reports suggest another Nazi fortune may lie buried beneath Lake Stolpsee, a 988-acre stretch of water north of Berlin. Nazi leader Hermann Goering reportedly ordered the gold to be dumped into the lake as the Red Army made its final push in 1945.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing concentration camp prisoners unloading heavy crates before ferrying them out to the middle of the lake and throwing them overboard. The men then rowed back to shore, where they were lined up and shot.

In 1981 divers from East Germany failed to find treasure when they searched the lake.
According to Spiegel Online, Adolf Hitler ordered his private secretary, Martin Bormann, to bury a hoard of ill-gotten bullion somewhere in the Bavarian hills during the last days of the Third Reich.

Bormann was then instructed to imbed a series of letters, figures and runes on the sheet music that would, when deciphered, lend the coordinates of the treasure. The score was then supposed to be couriered to Munich. But it never arrived.
Some 50 years later, Dutch journalist Karl Hammer Kaatee came across the document and went on to perform a series of abortive digs. But finally, with no gold in sight, he decided to make the supposed map public.
It is well known the Nazis hid much of the gold, silver and jewels plundered during their conquests. The regime executed a policy of looting the assets of its victims to finance the war, collecting the looted assets in top-secret central depositories.

It included valuables confiscated from prisoners arriving at concentration camps before it was melted down into bullion. As the war drew to a close, they desperately tried to 'make it disappear' instead of letting it fall into allied hands. Much of it remains unaccounted for.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group

Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Limited (周大福珠寶集團有限公司), is an affiliate of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd., a diversified Hong Kong-based company engaged in the property development, hotel, casino, transportation, jewelry, port and telecommunications businesses. It is ultimately owned by Cheng Yu Tung's Family.

10.58kg gold

17kg gold

24,928 grams of gold

16.27 carat emerald cut IF Fancy Pink diamond ring

12.13 carat cushion modified brilliant Fancy Purplish-Pink
Hong Kong luxury jeweler Chow Tai Fook unveiled an incredible necklace designed from the twinkling progeny of the 507.55-carat Cullinan Heritage rough diamond.

The massive diamond, which was purchased by the jeweler in 2010 for $35.3 million, yielded 24 D-flawless gems, including the necklace’s focal point, a perfect 104-carat round brilliant. The museum-quality piece is dubbed “A Heritage in Bloom.”

Chow Tai Fook enlisted the talents of jewelry artist Wallace Chan to assemble the family of “Heritage” diamonds, and a supporting cast of 11,500 addition precious gemstones, into a work of art that is estimated to be worth at least $200 million.

The diamond total weight of the piece is 383.4 carats.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Imelda Marcos’ Jewels - Yamashita's Gold

The Philippine government has approved the auction of former first lady Imelda Marcos' jewelry collection, worth approximately $21 million in total. There are three collections, each boasting a dazzling array of different jewels and precious stones.

Two of these are still being contested in court, but the Hawaii collection, seized by US Customs when the family arrived in Hawaii after being overthrown in 1986, is now up for sale.
The piece de resistance in the Hawaii collection is a rare 25-carat pink diamond worth at least $5 million.

Only three pure, vivid pink diamonds of more than 10 carats have appeared for sale in almost 250 years of auction history, according to Christie's.
Former First Lady Imelda Marcos’ jewelry and real estate are among the P18.2 billion worth of recovered ill-gotten assets of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The Hawaii collection comprises jewels seized by the United States Bureau of Customs from the Marcoses when they fled to Honolulu during the 1986 People Power revolt.
The government still holds about 760 pieces of Marcos’ jewelry in three collections.

That includes 300 pieces of jewelry retrieved from the Malacanang Palace right after People’s Power Revolution, 400 items confiscated in Hawaii, and 60 items seized by the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs from a Greek national accused of smuggling the jewels out of the country.
In the closing months of World War II General Yamashita Tomoyuki was in charge of hiding tons of Japan's looted gold and treasure.

Expert teams accompanying Japan's armed forces systematically striped anything of value from conquered territories. An effective US blockade prevented shipment and at one time there were more than 175 Imperial treasure sites hidden in caves and tunnels throughout the Philippines.

With US forces closing in, the chief engineers of all the vaults were called together with General Yamashita 67 meters underground in Tunnel 8 in the mountains of Luzon. They became drunk on sake and sang patriotic songs.

At midnight, General Yamashita Tomoyuki and his aids slipped out. Dynamite charges were set off in the access tunnels, entombing the engineers.

The General escaped to Tokyo by submarine and three months later surrendered to American troops.
Yamashita's driver led the Americans to more than a dozen treasure vaults in the rugged country north of Manila. What they found astounded everyone.

In November 1945, General MacArthur strolled down row after row of gold bars stacked two meters tall during a tour. In another 500 meter tunnel west of Mindanao, 12.5kg Gold bars were stacked 1 meter high.
After discussions with his cabinet, President Harry Truman kept the recovery efforts a state secret.
After surrendering on September 2, 1945, General Yamashita was charged with war crimes. During his trial there was no mention made of plundered treasure or of Japanese looting during the war.

On 23 February 1946, at Los Baños, Laguna Prison Camp, 30 miles (48 km) south of Manila, Yamashita was hanged.

In 1992, Imelda Marcos claimed that Yamashita's gold accounted for the bulk of the wealth of her husband, Ferdinand Marcos. Despite the best efforts of treasure hunters, no gold hoards have ever (officially) been found.