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Stolen Sapphire’s Ownership Put to N.Y. Court

MANHATTAN (CN) - A group of foreign insurers claim in court that they are the rightful owners of a rare sapphire that was stolen in 1996 and now belongs to a New York City pawn shop.

In 1996, a 65-carat Kashmir sapphire was stolen from the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan days before it was to be auctioned off, according to court records. It was owned by Geneva-based gem dealer Horovitz & Totah.

A group of insurers from London, Germany and Italy now seek a ruling from a New York Supreme Court judge that the stolen sapphire, which was allegedly cut down to about 60 carats and is now owned by a pawn shop, belongs to them.

They say they paid Horovitz & Totah's insurance claim for the theft, and as a result rights to the sapphire were assigned to the insurers.

"Kashmir sapphires are among the rarest, and most sought-after sapphires in the world," the lawsuit notes.

The stolen sapphire was part of a "remarkable" Cartier sapphire-and-diamond bracelet from 1923, the complaint states.

It was consigned to Antiquorum in November 1996 and slated for sale in Milan.

But it was stolen just four days before the Magical Art of Cartier auction.

The stolen jewel then came up for auction in New York City last month, the insurers claim.

An email about the auction tipped plaintiffs off that it was their stolen sapphire.

But the gem was then taken off the block and returned to the consignor, according to the complaint.

The insurance companies say they have been damaged in the amount of $7 million due to the theft and insurance claim reimbursement.

"There are perhaps only a handful of Kashmir sapphires in the world as large," the lawsuit notes, referencing the gem's carat weight.

The gem had an "elongated cushion cut" which is "much less common among sapphires," according to the complaint.

The insurers say that the gem was unheated. Heating gems helps jewelers "improve color, clarity and appearance," but only a small number of sapphires "stand on their own natural brilliance and color," the lawsuit states.

The insurance companies want the court to rule that it's their stolen sapphire and they want it returned to them.

The plaintiffs are Riverstone Insurance (UK) Ltd.; Darag Deutsche Versicherungs-Und Ruckversicherungs-AG; The Ocean Marine Insurance Co. Ltd.; Assicurazioni Generali SPA Allianz Insurance PLC; Swiss RE Europe SA (UK); and Markel International Insurance Co. Ltd.

The named defendants are Auction House 43 Inc.; Modern Pawn Brokers Inc.; Boris Aronov aka Boris Arnov aka Boris Aronov; Rafael Koblence aka Rafael Koelence; Rafka & Co. Ltd.; Design by Rafka K. Ltd., and other unknown entities.

Koblence pledged the sapphire to Modern Pawn in 2011 as loan collateral, according to the lawsuit.

The insurers are represented by Owen Carragher, Jr. with Clyde & Co. US LLP in Manhattan.

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