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Priceless items stolen from Green Vault

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Value could be as much as R16 billion

INVESTIGATE: Police officers are seen here near Dresden Castle, in Dresden, Saxony, Germany, which was broken into early yesterday. Picture: EPA-EFE

Thieves have carried out a heist at Dresden’s Green Vault, one of the world’s oldest museum containing priceless treasures and jewels, making off with treasures of “immeasurable worth,” German officials said yesterday.

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 the historic palace.

The governor of Saxony, where Dresden is located, said the vault contained items collected over many hundreds of years.

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

Multiple burglars forced their way into the building in the early morning hours, and authorities were still trying to assess the losses, Interior Minister Roland Woeller told reporters.

“This is a bitter day for the cultural heritage of Saxony,” 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.”

German media reported the losses from the early-morning burglary could run into the high hundreds of millions of euros. Police said it was too early to estimate the value of the items stolen but planned to provide further information.

Woeller said police had already set up a special team of investigators to pursue the case.

“We will do everything in our power not only to bring the cultural treasures back, but to capture the perpetrators,” he said.

Other media reports indicated that the value of the stolen items could be as much as R16 billion.

Exhibition rooms at the museum include 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 didn’t put a current value on the piece, but said 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.

At the time of going to press last night it was reported that amongst the stolen items were three diamond jewellery sets.

The sets consist of 37 parts each, and the thieves may try to break them up.

“Three out of 10 diamond sets have gone,” said Marion Ackermann, head of the Dresden state museums.

The 18th-Century sets are reported to also include some rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

Ackermann described the jewels as “priceless- we can’t put a figure on it”. “The items cannot be sold on the art market legally – they’re too well known.”