Toronto: Security Ramped up for Red Carpet Jewelry

Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart
 Getty Images

TORONTO – Leading ladies walking the Toronto International Film Festival red carpet for movie premieres will be judged by fans and paparazzi as much for their gem-encrusted necklaces and bracelets as their party outfits.

But recent jewelry heists in Cannes have prompted stepped-up security in Toronto to ensure those rubies, sapphires and emeralds on loan from major brands reach movie stars in Toronto – and are safely returned to their insured owners, according to security officials.

"They can always hire their own security," if stars or jewelry brands feel the need for even more protection, said Mickael Damelincourt, general manager of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto. "If they have something in the room and have a bodyguard outside the door, that's fine with Trump."

Damelincourt added that his hotel, which was built with high security in mind, has never had a jewel robbery.

So says the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the security safe near the front desk requires both a key and a photo ID at all times, and is under 24 hours security surveillance, including cameras.

But on the red carpet outside Roy Thomson Hall and other TIFF venues, where private bodyguards are used to protect stars launching films, security costs this week include precious gem transport and guarding.

Global security firms like Brinks and Malca Amit, who pride themselves on discretion, have local operations in Toronto and have kept busy during TIFF to give comfort to diamond insurers and studios with Oscar campaigns.

"A lot goes on behind the scenes to ensure the high-value goods are secured: risk assessments, security analysis, liaisons with local and international security forces, global tracking while goods are in transit, VIP protocol and so on," explained Artzi Korostelev, operations manager at Malca-Amit in Toronto.

Security experts caution Toronto is far less vulnerable to jewel thieves and their armed attacks than the French Riviera and Cannes' Croisette promenade, where the rich and beautiful play year-round and international filmmakers gather in May.

But precisely because gem heists are rare here, TIFF and its so-called high-value targets on the red carpet leaves the Canadian festival vulnerable to international diamond theft rings, warns Kelly Ross, a former head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's diamond smuggling division and now senior manager of operational risk at the Canadian Western Bank.

"Perhaps the greatest concern is not what we know or have been accustomed to in security or law enforcement with respect to gem theft," he warned. "It is the unknown."

The Toronto International Film Festival is set to run Thursday through Sept. 15.

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