Burglars stole jewelry, diamonds and gemstones valued at more than $1 billion from the historic Green Vault museum in Germany on Monday morning, according to media reports.
The thieves gained access to the Dresden museum by twisting back iron grill bars on a ground-floor window, after a nearby fire at a power distributor likely disabled the museum’s alarm system, German news outlets said.
The Green Vault collection, which is housed in Dresden Castle, was created in the 18th century by Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong. It contains a large assortment of jewels, including a 648-carat sapphire, a gift from Russia’s Czar Peter the Great. The Saxon crown jewels are also stored there. However, one of the collection’s most valuable pieces, the 41-carat Green Diamond, is believed to be safe, having been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at the time of the heist, German newspaper Bild noted.
“Not only were the state art collections robbed, but also we Saxons,” tweeted Saxony Minister President Michael Kretschmer. “You cannot understand the history of Saxony without the Green Vault. The valuables here have been hard won by the people of our free state for many centuries.”
Police have closed the museum and are searching for the criminals.