Courtesy of Toh-Atin Gallery
Police are asking for the public’s help locating more than 300 pieces of Native American jewelry stolen earlier this week from Toh-Atin Gallery near Ninth Street and Main Avenue in downtown Durango.
The heist occurred either Tuesday night or early Wednesday, said Detective Christopher Thomson of the Durango Police Department.
“We do not have any suspects identified at this point, but they forced entry into the building,” he said.
Police believe the stolen jewelry could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but a complete inventory has not yet taken place.
Gallery owner Jackson Clark said the stolen jewelry is primarily Navajo and Zuni and includes bracelets and necklaces.
“It was all Native American, and a lot was turquoise and silver, and some gold,” he said. “A lot of it was older estate-type jewelry made in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. These things look like antique jewelry.”
It is unknown how many people were involved in the burglary, but Clark believes the thief or thieves cased his business because they targeted the most expensive jewelry.
“Those cases were the furthest from the front of the building,” he said. “You want to make sure a casual shoplifter doesn’t catch one of those cases unlocked.”
Clark said the suspects likely posed as customers and walked around the gallery, deciding which cases to break into.
“They knew which cases they were going to,” he said. “They broke the back off of them because they were locked, and basically reached in, ran their hands along the shelves and shoved everything into bags.”
Thomson said people should be on the lookout for anyone who is not an established business owner dealing high-end jewelry.
“This jewelry is of a quality you wouldn’t see being sold on the street or at a pawn shop,” he said. “Selling this type of jewelry at a swap meet would be a red flag.”
This is not the first time a gallery in Durango has been burglarized.
In September 2014, two women stole necklaces from Toh-Atin Gallery when the sales clerks were distracted.
In a more serious heist, a gun-wielding bandit stole more than $400,000 of jewelry from Sorrel Sky Gallery in 2008, including pieces crafted by former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
The arrest of Brett Clinton Combs in January 2009 at his Las Vegas home led to the discovery of more than 20 pieces of the jewelry, identified by Campbell’s trademark.
But it wasn’t until April 2014, 5½ years after the robbery, that Sorrel Sky Gallery located its still-missing gold and turquoise bracelet, valued at $40,000.
John Stevens, who lived in an unincorporated community in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains in eastern Orange County, California, acquired the bracelet in 2009 at a “gold party,” a gathering of people who buy, sell or trade jewelry.
Stevens phoned the gallery to ask if it was interested in purchasing the bracelet.
When he learned the bracelet was stolen, he was more than happy to return it.
Anyone with information about the Toh-Atin Gallery theft is asked to call Thomson at 375-4732.