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World’s most protected

We’ve collected an impressive selection of precious items over history, from fine pieces of art to intricate jewels. There’s an immense value attached to these items, as well as some high insurance costs. If you’ve watched some of this year’s most popular heist movies though, such as Marvel’s Black Panther or Ocean’s 8, you may question just how these pieces can possibly be kept secure. Here, the Tyneside security company 2020 Vision shines a light on some of the world’s most protected artefacts and the security measures enforced to keep them out of the possession of thieves …

Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa is undoubtedly a masterpiece. It was crafted between 1503 and 1517 and is known as one of the most recognisable pieces of art in the world. In fact, the piece itself is the most known, most visited and most written about in modern times. The painting has the highest known insurance valuation in history too, according to the Guinness World Records. The valuation stands at $100 million in 1962. However, the inflation rate takes this up to $821,746,666.67 in 2018, making it one of the most valuable items in the world.

A signature from da Vinci was never etched onto the painting though, while it never made its way to its intended owner either. Instead, the work of art was sold to King Francis I and supposedly entered the Royal Collection in 1518. After the French Revolution, the painting was moved to The Louvre; what was thought to be a safe place for the piece — but it wasn’t.

In fact, the painting was stolen during 1911. However, it took a few hours to realise so. French painter, Louis Béroud visited The Louvre and found that the painting was missing — he asked the guards about its whereabouts and they weren’t entirely sure and assumed that it was being photographed for museum advertisements. Béroud returned a few hours later and the painting had not been returned; it had been stolen.

For a week, The Louvre closed its doors to the public for investigations into the theft. There were many now famous faces on the suspect list for the theft of this masterpiece, including Guillaume Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso; but they were both cleared of all charges. The real thief, Vicenzo Peruggia, was found two years later when he attempted to sell the painting to a museum in Florence. It’s often described as one of the greatest thefts in the 20th century, as Peruggia stole the piece during working hours, hid in a broom closet and waited until after hours to walk out of the museum with the painting under his coat. However, the thief was only jailed for six months, as it was defined as an act of patriotism for Italy. The painting returned to its home in Paris.

It is estimated that six million visitors will marvel at the Mona Lisa a year. It sits behind a bulletproof glass because of past vandalism attempts (throwing stones, acid etc). The glass is reportedly almost two centimetres thick and the painting is held in a sealed box that protects it from vibrations and humidity. Public visitors are separated from the piece by a queue barrier, but that is only one aspect of the state-of-the-art security systems that The Louvre has put in place.

Take a tour of all 70,000 square meters of The Louvre and you’ll be monitored by a 24-hour surveillance of closed-circuit TV cameras, access control systems and intruder-detection equipment that includes video analytics. They all help to protect some of the finest pieces of art in the world.

UK’s Crown Jewels

For centuries, the UK’s royal family have been able to gather together an impressive collection of treasure. Items include the Sovereign’s Orb and the Imperial State Crown. With 23,578 delicate stones and over 140 objects, putting an exact price on the jewels has been difficult but estimates have been made stating that they are worth over £3bn. As well as this, it has also proven impossible to insure them because of their immense value.

It is obvious then that heightened security is needed. As a result, the collection is locked away in the Jewel House at the Tower of London (pictured). Believe it or not, the crown jewels are protected by bombproof glass and although the tower is open to the public, they’re watched by more than 100 hidden CCTV cameras.

Within the Tower of London, you’ll be met by a 22-strong Tower Guard too. This is a detachment of the British Army, who has a sole purpose of protecting the Crown Jewels on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. Also, these guards are accompanied by 38 Yeomen Warders, who are ex-military personnel who manage the large numbers of visitors. The Yeomen are permanently present and live in the tower itself.

The Crown Jewels will only be given appearances in public during special occasions. Coronation and State Opening ceremonies are two such instances, while they can be only removed under the authority of the Lord Chamberlain who is the head of the Royal Household. However, when this type of activity occurs, armed police officers must be present.

Sweden’s Crown Jewels

It may be wise for Sweden to take a leaf out of the UK’s book when protecting their own Crown Jewels. This is because in August 2018, two crowns and a royal orb which belonged to King Charles IX of Sweden and his wife Christina of Holstein-Gottorp were stolen in what looked like an amateur heist.

It’s not always been the case that the 400-year-old jewels were displayed to the public at the Strangnas Cathedral, however. The gems were originally created as funeral pieces and were buried in the tomb with them but were later unearthed. Although the theft was pre-meditated, it was inefficient. Two men walked into the cathedral around midday and smashed the glass where the contents were held — causing alarms to go off around the building. The duo escaped from the crime scene by bicycles and then by a motorboat along Lake Malaren, entering Stockholm’s archipelago. However, one of the thieves was soon tracked because of blood left at the crime scene and the jewels were partly recovered.

Any thief would have a very difficult challenge selling Sweden’s Crown Jewels on the black market, though; purely because government authorities would be out looking for them — and no one wants to put themselves at risk of being caught. As well as this, they’re extremely valuable and the thieves would have to find the right buyers. The jewels are made from the noblest metals and the gold value is worth around £43,000.

This isn’t the first occasion that someone has stolen the Crown Jewels of Sweden, mind. In 2012, a 19-year-old refugee claimed to be a friend of a member of the royal family and stole £73,700 of jewels — but sold them only for £730 to drug dealers for marijuana. The thief also reportedly stole a £30,350 tiara and threw it off a bridge.

Questions must be raised into the protection around Sweden’s Crown Jewels. Although the stolen Crown Jewels from the cathedral were on public display, they weren’t properly protected, and the thieves should have been detected as they walked in. With artefacts of immense value situated in the building, the cathedral should be looking at installing walkthrough security door frames and regular visitor searches. In terms of the theft in 2012, people with the right credentials should only be able to enter certain areas of the palace.


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