Crime scene at the entry-window
|Date||25 November 2019|
|Time||04:56 a.m CET (UTC+1)|
|Venue||The Green Vault,|
|Suspects||At least two unidentified individuals|
|Stolen value||€1 billion|
On 25 November 2019, royal jewellery was stolen from the Green Vault museum within Dresden Castle in Dresden, Germany. The stolen items include the 49-carat Dresden White Diamond, the diamond-laden breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle which belonged to the King of Poland, a hat clasp with a 16-carat diamond, a diamond epaulette, and a diamond-studded hilt containing nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, along with a matching scabbard. The missing items were of great cultural value to the State of Saxony and were described as priceless; other sources estimate the total value at about €1 billion.
The heist took place at the Green Vault (German: Grünes Gewölbe) in Dresden, Germany, one of the oldest museums in Europe, founded in 1723 by Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. At the time of the heist, it displayed about 4,000 items of jewellery and other treasures which were decorated with gold, silver, ivory, pearl, and other precious metals and stones. One of the museum's main treasures, the 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond, was away on loan at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
|CCTV footage of the heist|
|See the 'Priceless' 18th-Century Jewels Stolen|
On 25 November at 4 a.m. a small fire was started on the nearby Augustus Bridge, which destroyed a power box. The resulting power outage disabled streetlights and security alarms, but CCTV continued to function. The thieves then cut through iron bars around a window to break into the museum's Jewel Room. According to police, the thieves must have been very small in order to fit through the hole. CCTV footage shows two thieves within the vaults. They smashed the glass displays with an axe in order to gain access to the jewellery.
The thieves removed three 18th-century jewellery sets consisting of 37 parts each, including diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. The thieves were not able to take all of the pieces from the three jewellery sets; some jewellery was sewn into the surface of the cabinet and those pieces remained. However, they also took the Dresden White Diamond worth €9–10 million. The thieves exited through the same window, replacing the bars in order to delay detection. The robbery was detected by the guards at 04:56 a.m. and 16 police cars were dispatched to the museum. Security guards stationed at the museum followed protocol after the heist was discovered and did not engage with the robbers, as the guards were unarmed. They instead notified police and followed safety protocol.
One of the stolen pieces was a small sword, described as an épée made of silver and gold with a hilt of nine large and seven hundred and seventy smaller diamonds. Another was a brooch-style jewel worn by Queen Amalie Auguste which featured at least six hundred and sixty gemstones. Police identified that a jewelled Polish White Eagle Order and a diamond epaulette were among the items stolen. Also believed to be stolen is a diamond hat clasp comprising 15 large diamonds and more than 100 small ones, the largest being a 16-carat diamond, that was made in the 1780s and worn by Frederick Augustus III. An Order of the White Eagle breast star by the diamond-cutter Jean Jacques Pallard, made up of a 20-carat diamond at its centre and a Maltese cross of red rubies, was also taken.
The estimated total value of stolen items, according to Bild, is more than €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) which would make it the largest museum heist in history, surpassing the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft. According to NPR, the "material value seems to have fallen short of $1 billion". Marion Ackermann, director of Dresden State Art Collections, said that it was impossible to estimate the price of the stolen items due to their historic cultural value. Saxony's interior minister, Roland Wöller, also stated that the cultural loss "is impossible to estimate".
The first police car was called to the building at 4:59 a.m. arriving five minutes later, but by that time the suspects had escaped. The police set up roadblocks on approach around Dresden in an attempt to prevent the suspects from leaving. However, according to police, the museum's close proximity to the autobahn is likely to have helped the suspects' escape. The police believe there were four thieves and that they fled in an Audi A6; an identical vehicle was later found on fire in an underground parking lot. Police offered a €500,000 reward for information which could lead to the capture of the perpetrators.
Starting 12 December 2019, several German media outlets reported that police were investigating links to an Arab clan in Berlin. In March 2020, police revealed that at least 7 individuals were involved in the robbery. German prosecutors are currently investigating four security guards as likely culprits, as they failed to "react adequately".
It is feared that the thieves will alter the stolen works in order to sell them on the black market. Museum officials have begged the thieves not to melt down any of the gold or otherwise harm the artefacts. The General Director of Dresden's state art collections told reporters that the stolen jewels cannot be sold on the art market legally as they were too well known to collectors.
The museum reopened on 27 November, although the Green Vault remained closed.
Media related to Dresdner Juwelendiebstahl at Wikimedia Commons