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How Tiffany Moved 114,000 Gems Without Getting Robbed

Tiffany & Company had millions of dollars’ worth of shining, sparkling jewelry in its famous Fifth Avenue store on Sunday: $4,000 rings that spell the word “love” in small diamonds, $165,000 diamond necklaces, and even a $2.475 million engagement ring that weighs as much as a bullet.

Those things had to leave, along with hundreds of other rings, necklaces and brooches.

It was moving day.

Tiffany was emptying its 10-story fortress for a long-planned renovation. The merchandise had to travel only 50 feet or so — Tiffany will occupy a former Nike store during the makeover — but security was tight.

The jeweler assigned 30 security officers to watch as 114,179 “units of merchandise” — a “unit” being retailing jargon for one ring, necklace or brooch — were taken from their display cases and shuttled to the temporary store.

New York City police officers were standing by outside. They watched as the jewelry was rolled along the sidewalk in distinctive carts with robin’s egg-blue tambour doors. The color is so much a part of Tiffany’s identity that the company has a trademark on it.

But if the carts were somewhat showy, they were also meant to be secure. They had locks that were checked and rechecked, and before each cart was pushed onto the sidewalk, it was sealed in plastic shrink-wrap.

And Shifra Balancio, a Tiffany employee, was posted at the door of the store’s temporary home to keep a careful log of each cart that arrived.

There were 300 cameras monitoring the Tiffany store and about as many in the temporary store, as well as a few more trained on the route along the sidewalk, that were live feeding monitors surveilled by other security officials in the two stores and at Tiffany’s distribution center in Parsippany, N.J.

Employees had been told to keep word of the move quiet. That directive was repeated by Andrew Mikulskis, the Tiffany executive who coordinated the move and is overseeing the renovation, during a briefing for employees after the store closed on Sunday afternoon. He implored them not to post messages or photos on social media that might provide clues as to what was happening.

Well before that, Tiffany officials had monitored social media, looking for hints of potential criminality. Tiffany hired a company that tracks social media and provided a list of key words like “move,” “727 Fifth Avenue” — the address of the old store — “6 East 57th Street” and the move date.

As an extra security measure, Tiffany put up a tent in front of the door of the temporary store to block the view. Every item was entered into an inventory-control system when it was packed in the old store and checked off when it was unpacked in the temporary one.

The security was a reminder that over the years, Tiffany has had its share of headline-making robberies. Perhaps the most brazen took place in 1958, when two men sledgehammered the Fifth Avenue display windows in the middle of the night.

They broke the supposedly shatterproof glass and grabbed two diamond necklaces, a diamond pin and a diamond ring. Then they strolled to their car, waiting on Fifth Avenue, and drove away. The loot was never recovered.

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