Thieves in a smash and grab stole priceless jewels from the Green Vault museum in the early hours of Monday. The lightning raid on one of Europe’s greatest collections of treasures, police said.
They forced their way into the Green Vault museum, and got away with early 18th century jewellery. Including diamonds and rubies, museum staff told reporters.
Security camera footage showed two men breaking in through a grilled window, police said. The alarm sounded just before 5 a.m. local time and officers were there five minutes later. But the burglars had escaped.
Jewels Described as Priceless from Green Vault Museum
“We are talking here of objects of immeasurable cultural value,” museum director Dirk Syndram told Reuters.
It would be impossible to sell such unique, identifiable items on the open market, the director added.
“It would be a terrible thing,” he said when asked whether the jewellery might be broken up or melted down. Its cultural value far outstrips any material value.
The jewel haul was worth up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), Bild newspaper reported earlier, without giving a source.
Police said the area had suffered a power cut but it was unclear if it was linked to the crime. They were also investigating whether a burned-out car was linked to the raid.
The collection was founded in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland. Who also commissioned ever more brilliant jewellery as part of his rivalry with France’s King Louis XIV.
Dresden “Green Diamond” Jewel on Exhibit at Green Vault Museum
One of its best known treasures – the 41-carat Dresden “Green Diamond.” – It was away on loan to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art at the time of the break-in.
Other exhibits in Dresden include a table-sized sculpture of an Indian royal court, made out of gold, silver, enamel, precious stones and pearls.
The treasures of the Green Vault survived Allied bombing raids in World War Two. Only to be carted off as war booty by the Soviet Union. They were returned to Dresden, the historic capital of the state of Saxony, in 1958.
The theft was a blow to the whole state, its premier, Michael Kretschmer, said.
“The works in the Green Vault museum was also built up by the people of Saxony. It took many centuries of hard work,” he said.