What's Missing From the Dresden Green Vault After 'Appalling and Shocking' Heist

  • November 26, 2019 14:34

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Breast Star of the Polish White Eagle Order (Brilliant Set). Made in Geneva/ Vienna between 1746 and 1749 of diamonds, rubies, gold, and silver. Green Vault, Dresden State Art Collections. Photo: Jürgen Karpinski
Sword with sheath (diamond rose set). Owned by Christian August Globig (before 1747-98). Manufactured 1782-89, Dresden. © SKD.
Piece of the diamond rose set owned by Christian August (before 1747-98). Produced in 1782-89, Dresden, Saxony. © SKD
Jewel of the Polish White Eagle Order (Diamond Rose Set). © SKD.

Early Monday morning thieves broke into the Dresden Royal Palace's famed Green Vault (Grüne Gewölbe) and stole precious jewels in what could be Europe's biggest museum heist ever.

After a suspicious fire cut off electricity to the area of the German museum, two thieves with axes entered through a window, taking a confirmed ten treasures (less than originally thought) worth perhaps $1 billion. Several pieces had been collected by Saxony’s 18th-century ruler, Augustus the Strong.

Police released dramatic CCTV footage of the suspects. Video shows the men smashing a display case to grab the diamonds.

Large chest bow from the jewellery of the queen. Owned by Christian August (before 1747-98). Made in 1782. © SKD
Epaulette (diamond rose set), Christian August Globig and August Gotthelf Globig. Dresden 1782-89. Consists of 20 large and 216 small diamonds, as well as silver and gold. Green Vault, Dresden State Art Collections. Photo: Karpinski
Jewellery in palm form (brilliant set). Produced 1746, Vienna. © SKD
Hairpiece in the shape of a sun with 127 diamonds and silver. Owned by August Gotthelf (1769-1819). Produced in Dresden, 1782-1807. © SKD.

Germany’s culture minister, Monika Grütters, said the theft was “appalling and shocking.” She added, “This robbery of pieces which define our identity as a nation of culture breaks our hearts.”

Museum officials are hoping the jewels are not broken apart to sell separately and parts melted down. “We hope that their international fame will preclude their being offered on the market,” said Marion Ackermann, director of Dresden State Art Collection, to the press.

Green Vault director Dirk Syndram warned that it would be “stupid" to break apart the jewels for resale. Adding, "They’re all 18-century cuts. You can’t just turn these stones into cash."

Hairpiece in the shape of a sun with 127 diamonds and silver. Owned by August Gotthelf (1769-1819). Produced in Dresden, 1782-1807. © SKD.

The thieves reportedly sped away in an Audi A6, possibly escaping on the autobahn before the police arrived within 5 minutes of the crime. A burning car was found, but not the suspects.

Since 1724, the Grüne Gewölbe (Green Vault) has been a popular tourist attraction. During the devastating bombing of Dresden by British and American forces in World War II, the building sustained heavy damage. A 2006 renovation reopened the palace's Green Vault as an international destination for dazzling cultural treasures.

Necklace made of 177 Saxon pearls. Manufactured in 1734-1937. © SKD.

The Green Vault's lauded Dresden Green Diamond and other signature treasures are currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for the exhibition Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe.


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