Three “priceless” sets of 18th century jewelry were stolen from Dresden’s Green Vault, one of the world’s oldest museums, early on Nov. 25, 2019. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Three “priceless” sets of 18th century jewelry were stolen from Dresden’s Green Vault, one of the world’s oldest museums, early on Nov. 25, 2019. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Thieves steal ‘priceless’ jewel sets from Dresden museum

BERLIN — Thieves broke into Dresden’s Green Vault, one of the world’s oldest museums, early Monday morning, making off with three “priceless” sets of 18th century jewelry that German officials said would be impossible to sell on the open market.

The treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony was established in 1723 and today contains around 4,000 objects of gold, precious stones and other materials on display in Dresden’s Royal Palace.

Authorities said it appeared the thieves had broken open only one glass case containing three sets of Baroque jewelry made up of dozens of gems each.

“This is a bitter day for the cultural heritage of Saxony,” the state’s interior minister, Roland Woeller, told reporters.

He said the thieves “stole cultural treasures of immeasurable worth — that is not only the material worth but also the intangible worth to the state of Saxony, which is impossible to estimate.”

Police said they have established a special investigation team, codenamed ‘Epaulette’ and comprising 20 specialist officers, to solve the case. Museum officials said the sets that were stolen included intricate and dazzling brooches, buttons, buckles and other items.

Green Vault director Dirk Syndram stressed that the collections in the museum have “invaluable cultural value” — particularly their completeness.

“Nowhere in any other collection in Europe have jewels or sets of jewels been preserved in this form and quantity,” he said. “The value is really in the ensemble.”

Police said they were alerted shortly before 5 a.m. by unarmed museum security guards who had spotted two burglars inside the downtown museum on video surveillance cameras.

The first officers arrived on the scene within minutes but the thieves had already fled in a waiting getaway car, which managed to elude immediate attempts to find it in the surrounding area and on the nearby highway, Dresden police chief Joerg Kubiessa told reporters.

Police later confirmed that an Audi A6 matching the description of the getaway car was found burned out in an underground parking lot in Dresden.

“It’s not just the State Art Collections that was robbed, but us Saxons,” Michael Kretschmer, the governor of Saxony, where Dresden is located, tweeted. “One can’t understand the history of Saxony without the Green Vault.”

Investigators suspect that a fire at an electrical junction box near the museum, which took out the streetlights at the time of the robbery, was linked to the crime, police said. The outage affected lights in front of a window through which the thieves gained entrance, somehow getting through bars and safety glass to reach the Jewel Room.

Security footage released by police showed two hooded figures entering the room, then smashing open the glass case with an axe.

“In total, the entire crime only took a few minutes,” police said in a statement.

Dresden’s State Art Collections director, Marion Ackermann, said it was impossible to estimate the value of the items.

“We cannot give a value because it is impossible to sell,” she said, appealing to the thieves not to break the ensembles into pieces. “The material value doesn’t reflect the historic meaning.”

Woeller pledged that investigators would “do everything in (their) power not only to bring the cultural treasures back, but to capture the perpetrators.”

Exhibition rooms at the museum focus on treasures featuring jewels, ivory, silver and amber among other objects.

One of its most famous and precious treasures, the Dresden Green Diamond, is currently on loan with other valuable pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for an exhibit.

The 41-carat green diamond was acquired by Augustus III, the son of Augustus the Strong, in 1742, according to the museum.

The museum said that at the time of its purchase it cost 400,000 thalers, compared to the 288,000 thalers it cost to build Dresden’s lavish Frauenkirche church at around the same time.

By The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police have charged two men after they allegedly tried to break into the Bentley post office with a semi. (Photo courtesy of RCMP)
Red Deer men charged in Bentley post office destruction

Police have charged a pair of Red Deer men after an attempted… Continue reading

Red Deer Fire Chief Ken McMullen remains concerned about “inconsistencies” in the province’s new way of dispatching local ambulances. (Advocate file photo).
A few glitches are already noticed in Red Deer’s new ambulance dispatch system

Local fire-medics need more data about ambulance arrival times

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province still hopes to bring the hospitalization number down before relaxing restrictions. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
14 new deaths, 366 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Province nearing 100K COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Cervus Equipment is planning to set up a new location near Highways 2 and 42 in Red Deer County. Graphic contributed
Cervus Equipment eyeing new Red Deer County location

Farm equipment busy looking to set up near Highways 2 and 42

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, left, makes a save on Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo, Boston Red Sox's Curt Schilling pitches against the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the baseball World Series at Fenway Park in Boston. Like many baseball writers, C. Trent Rosecrans viewed the Hall of Fame vote as a labor of love. The results of the 2021 vote will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, and Rosecrans was not alone in finding the task particularly agonizing this time around. With Schilling's candidacy now front and center — and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still on the ballot as well — voters have had to consider how much a player’s off-field behavior should affect his Hall of Fame chances. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Toronto Arrows await word on where they can play, with Plan B going to the U.S.

Toronto Arrows await word on where they can play, with Plan B going to the U.S.

Former CFL player,-coach Brady understands historical significance of NFL promotion

Former CFL player,-coach Brady understands historical significance of NFL promotion

James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, watches during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Darron Cummings
Canadian James Hinchcliffe inks full-time ride with Andretti for 2021 IndyCar season

Canadian James Hinchcliffe inks full-time ride with Andretti for 2021 IndyCar season

Toronto Six down Boston Pride 2-1 for first NWHL victory in franchise history

Toronto Six down Boston Pride 2-1 for first NWHL victory in franchise history

Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Copp (9) celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Nikolaj Ehlers leads the way, Jets storm back to beat Oilers 6-4

Nikolaj Ehlers leads the way, Jets storm back to beat Oilers 6-4

Most Read