You don’t tend to hear about ambitious art heists too often anymore, mostly because global surveillance technology has progressed so rapidly that anyone who attempted it would likely immediately be recorded on CCTV, tracked down via their smartphone and instantly apprehended. It appears that early on Monday morning, however, two men in Dresden, Germany somehow managed to pull off such a robbery.
According to reports, in the wee dawn hours, a fire that broke out in an electrical distribution area triggered a power cut that allowed thieves to break into the “Green Vault” of the Royal Palace of Dresden. From a display cabinet, they took three sets of 18th century jewelry in a score that amounted to the palace’s loss of so many artifacts, it’s still unclear exactly how many were taken.
However, it’s certain that precious gemstones, including sapphires, emeralds and rubies, were among the items lifted. The jewelry in question is crucial to contextualizing the history of Saxony and its statehood, a fact emphasized by one commentator’s insistence that there is literally no monetary recompensation that could undo the impact of the theft.
“This is a bitter day for the cultural heritage of Saxony,” interior minister Roland Wöller 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.”
The German media has apparently described this robbery as the biggest theft the country has suffered since the World War II, but there’s a not-insignificant silver lining.
One of the Green Vault’s primary treasures, a 41-carat behemoth called the Dresden Green Diamond, is currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In another truly weird coincidence, the Green Diamond is going to be on display starting today, in an exhibition titled “Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe.” The world may never see the hundreds of stolen gems again, but at least Dresden’s biggest prize diamond remains safely protected (for now).