I thought you’d like to hear the story about Al Capone… a Diamond… Prohibition…the “Beer Baron of Chicago”…and an unusual payment of debt, gangster style.
During the Prohibition era in Chicago… it wasn’t the Italians who were the “muscle” in the beginning… it was the Irish!… especially on the South Side. The most powerful gang in the gin and beer business was the “Drugan-Lake Gang”, headed by the man known as the “Beer Baron of Chicago”… Terrence (Terry) Drugan. He literally had a lock on all the beer traffic, warehouses, trucks, etc. He had even owned race horses and 1/3 of Arlington Race Track. This was before Elliott Ness. He drove Deusenbergs, a Bugati, Pierce-Arrows or whatever he fancied at the moment. It was said that he actually owned a solid gold toilet seat. I’ve had it confirmed that it was only gold plated! The actor, James Cagney, looked a lot like him and played a character in the movie, “Public Enemy” which was based on, you guessed, Terrence Drugan… grapefruit and all!
Eventually, others saw the possibilities of moving in on the Irish in other areas…headed by a new guy, Al Capone. Drugan allowed Capone to “lease” some of his operations…for a nice price. It worked out well, at first…. but ugly ambition set in, then violence. The Capone people decided that they shouldn’t have to pay to do all the work! So they didn’t. This made Drugan angry… he personally called on Capone to pay up. Capone pleaded poverty and wanted time…. Drugan was having none of it. He then noticed the belt buckle that Capone was wearing. He demanded, “Give me that… the diamond in that belt buckle!” Capone said no… guns were drawn… Drugan insisted…. Capone refused… guns all around were flashing even more than the diamond. Finally, Al Capone realized that he had no choice but to give it up. He ordered his “assistant”, Frank Nitty, to remove the almost 2 carat stone from the buckle with his knife. It didn’t cover the entire debt but it established a strange working relationship between the two men.
Drugan kept the diamond (unmounted) in a safe deposit box where it was found many years later… after his death in 1954. Terry Drugan became the father-in-law that I never met! His son had changed his name from Terrence Joseph Drugan Jr. to Terry Stone… because of the negative baggage attached to the Drugan name in Chicago and points east. His father passed away one month before I met Terry. The Capone Diamond was given to me to honor our engagement/wedding. We took it to Laykin et Cie at I. Magnin in Los Angeles with my own design which placed the stone in the center of a bow of diamonds set in platinum. I wore it for the 10 years of our marriage. Terry passed away in 1965. Now, I am afraid to wear it, as beautiful as it is. I keep it in a bank vault where it will remain until I pass it on to my daughter and/or grand-daughters.
The Capone diamond can easily be identified because it is an antique mine cut from the 1920’s or earlier…but most importantly…what looks like a defect is actually an identifying asset. The very point of the stone has been cut and blunted. The reason?….because it wouldn’t fit in the buckle…otherwise!!