Gems like the breast bow, „the Saxon white“ diamond, Queen Amalia Auguste’s diamond necklace, four coat buttons, the large diamond rose, and the sword blade are still missing.
Broken, rusted, scratched: The loot that was seized from the Green Vault is in worse condition than expected. This also affects the deal that the alleged thieves negotiated with the prosecutors.
When it became known in December that the jewels had emerged from the Green Vault. Three years earlier, thieves had broken into the Dresden Residential Palace and stolen numerous sets of jewels from a display case. Shortly before Christmas, the pieces of jewelery were seized and there was hope that Augustus the Strong’s treasure would soon be complete again. Perhaps the euphoria was a little premature.
As came out on 10th January, in the process of breaking into the Green Vault, a number of pieces of jewelry are more damaged than expected.
Mrs Eve Begov is a restorer at the Dresden State Art Collections. When she tells the district court how she first saw the pieces of jewelry in the State Criminal Police Office, she doesn’t let the art-historical significance of this situation be noticed. Objectively, she tells how the three of them bent over the jewelry packed in bags – and saw traces of the devastation. Moisture damage, rust and dripping under gemstones. The epaulette, which had given its name to the police investigative group, was broken into five pieces, had scratches and a torn rivet pin. And the breast star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle, set with diamonds and originally said to be intact, is also deformed and lacks a ray tip.
This is not only of great importance in terms of art history, but also from a legal point of view. Because the stones were returned by the alleged thieves themselves. Six young men have been on trial in Dresden for the theft since early 2022. However, this also depends on how much damage has been repaired.
The court begins the day of the hearing with the words: „A lot has happened.“
That might be the understatement of the year, just handing over the jewels was cinematic. A chief inspector a tells how he found out in mid-December that he could pick up the jewels in Berlin. Late at night, his team of prosecutors rushed into a Berlin law firm, and they were lying on the conference table: 31 pieces of jewelry, many more parts than were stolen. „As a layman“ that surprised him at first, but he quickly realized that numerous jewels had simply broken into pieces. The sword, for example: It was disassembled into nine individual parts, 23 stones were gone, the blade was missing completely.
After all, the police got clues from the defenders as to where to look: in the Neukölln shipping canal, where upon police divers got into the water there on the Christmas holidays.
It was now also known in court what had been going on behind the scenes since the summer. Accordingly, from August, there were exploratory talks between defense attorneys and the public prosecutor’s office about a possible return of the jewelry.
At the beginning of December, the defense lawyer for a defendant who had already confessed to being involved in the coup came forward.
Defense attorneys and the public prosecutor’s office then discussed the cornerstones of a procedural agreement, also known as a „deal“. In return, for confessions and the return of 18 of the 21 pieces of jewelry, a certain range of punishment should be guaranteed, and pre-trial detention should be suspended when the verdict is announced. The jewelry was handed over on December 17th.
But the deal didn’t quite meet the prosecutor’s expectations. Three fewer pieces were returned than stated. In addition, some pieces of jewelry were damaged and some were „significantly affected“, apparently also when cleaning was attempted.
It will still take some effort to bring the art treasures back to their old condition. Mrs Begov estimates the cost of the restoration alone at 126,000 euros, not including the numerous precious stones that need to be replaced.
And gems like the breast bow, the Saxon white diamond of 49,84 ct., Queen Amalia Auguste’s diamond necklace, four coat buttons, the large diamond rose and the sword blade are still missing.
Quoted from the Süddeutsche Zeitung / Grünes Gewölbe Dresden.