ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Someone stole a 3-carat uncut diamond from a display case at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science near Old Town on Wednesday, according to museum officials.
The diamond, part of a display about volcanoes, was discovered to be missing by a custodian about 9:30 a.m., said Carrie Moritomo, communications director for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.
Moritomo said someone broke a lock on the display case containing the diamond, which has been on loan to the museum from another institution for the past 28 years.
Because the museum opens at 9 a.m., the alarm system was not armed, she said. The diamond’s display case does not have a separate alarm, and no cameras are set up to record activities in that area of the museum.
Moritomo said she did not have an estimate on the value of the diamond, but Karen Fitzpatrick, a certified gemologist appraiser with the American Gem Society and co-owner of Harris’ Jewelers and Gemologists in Rio Rancho, offered her best guesstimate.
“Honestly, without knowing the color and the clarity, it’s like asking me the price of a 4,000 pound car. It could be a Jaguar, it could be a Hyundai.”
That being said, Fitzpatrick offered to hazard a guess at the stone’s value.
“If it’s a decent stone … you’re looking at a range of between $8,500 to $35,000. It’s a big range because we don’t know its color or clarity. … Those are very big variables in appraising a diamond and understanding its quality,” she said.
A carat is a unit of mass equal to 200 milligrams and is used for measuring gemstones and pearls.
Shortly after hearing about the theft, Fitzpatrick posted a notice on the New Mexico Jewelers Association website to warn other jewelers that someone might be trying to sell the diamond.
She later said she had heard that someone tried to sell the diamond to Beauchamp Jewelers in Albuquerque and to a local gold and silver exchange.
Moritomo said the museum exhibit, which will reopen once repairs are made, explains how various gems and minerals are formed deep beneath Earth’s crust, and how they are expelled by volcanoes.
Natural diamonds are formed from carbon subjected to intense heat and pressure deep in Earth’s mantle, and rise to the surface through volcanoes. Variations in color are the result of impurities trapped in the crystal when the diamond is being formed.
“The museum works hard to present quality educational experiences based on real specimens to the community and it is a great disappointment that someone would take something like this from a museum,” Charles Walter, the museum’s executive director, said in a news release.