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Cannes caper: Pricey trove of jewels stolen from hotel room during film festival

Sebastien Nogier / EPA

French police officers stand guard Friday outside the Cannes hotel that was targeted.

Premiering this year at Cannes: "To Catch a Thief."

Someone stole a hotel room safe Friday and made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of gems by Chopard, a Swiss jeweler that decks the stars in its ritzy wares for the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, the most celebrated gathering in cinema. 

The festival opened Wednesday, and Chopard jewels are certainly being worn by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. But in a statement late Friday, Chopard said the jewels that were stolen weren't part of that collection.

And while it was widely reported that the stolen jewelry was worth almost 780,000 euros — about $1 million U.S. — the company maintained that "the value of the pieces stolen is far lower than those in the figures circulating in the media."

Chopard — whose full name, Le Petit-Fils de L.-U. Chopard & Cie S.A., would give any actor fits — wouldn't officially say how much they were worth because police were still investigating. But the newspaper Le Figaro said the company had valued them at between 200,000 and 300,000 euros ($250,000 to $385,000). 

A police source told NBC News that the safe was torn from the wall of the hotel room of a U.S. employee of Chopard. The heist took place about 5 a.m., French media reported. Chopard said the employee wasn't in the room at the time.

It's common for employees of jewelers to stay out all night during events like the Cannes festival, either surveying jewelry lent to the stars or recovering it from them after parties.

Police swarmed the hotel, a four-star Novotel, and were combing through surveillance footage and grilling potential witnesses.

"It seems pretty unlikely to us that it was just one person," Cmdr. Bernard Mascarelli, a police spokesman in the nearby city of Nice, told The Associated Press. "There must have been either inside complicity, or people who were in contact with this person and knew that the person had jewels."

Chopard also makes the Palme d'Or, the award for best picture at Cannes and arguably the top prize in film. Festival organizers wouldn't say where the Palme was being kept Friday but reassured reporters that it was safe.

On its Facebook and Tumblr pages, Chopard features stars showing off its spectacular jewels on the red carpet.

Just Thursday, Julianne Moore wore a dazzling platinum necklace packed with 56 carats of diamonds. The English model Cara Delevingne sported glittering Chopard chandelier earrings. The singer-songwriter Lana del Rey chose Chopard for the second straight year and was photographed at Cannes in extravagant earrings of yellow and white gold set with emeralds.

The festival, which draws thousands of industry insiders to the palm-lined shores of the Mediterranean Sea, runs through May 26. One of the films premiering there this year is "The Bling Ring," a Sofia Coppola-directed drama about a group of teenagers who rob celebrity homes and brag about it on Facebook.

Among the films competing for Chopard's Palme this year are five from the United States, with other U.S. directors including Steven Soderbergh and the Coen brothers. The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi premiered a drama called "Le Passe" at Cannes on Friday to huge buzz. Steven Spielberg heads the jury.

Besides being a competition for cinema prestige — and a staging ground for legendarily lavish parties — Cannes is a showcase for jewelers and fashion designers, who drape the stars in their goods.

High-end jewelry stores along the French Riviera have been a favorite target of professional thieves for years. In February, thieves ran off with $1 million worth of luxury watches from a jewelry store along the main drag in Cannes.

A notorious ring of jewelry thieves known as the Pink Panthers has struck the French Riviera and Monaco repeatedly over the past decade. The source said investigators haven't ruled them out, but they said the break-in doesn't follow their pattern.

M. Alex Johnson of NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.


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