COPENHAGEN (AFP) — One of Denmark's national treasures, a set of two horns made in the 1800s, was stolen in the early hours of Monday, Danish police said.
Called "Guldhornene" in Danish, or the Golden Horns, the pieces are silver replicas of two original gold horns made in 400 A.D. which were stolen in 1802 and destroyed.
The replicas, with a thin gold coating, were on loan from the National Museum of Denmark for an exhibit in Jelling, near the central Danish town of Vejle, when they were stolen by thieves who smashed a display case.
Even though the works are replicas they are part of the country's cultural heritage, National Museum curator Carsten Larsen said.
The originals were discovered in the town of Gallehus in southern Denmark in 1639 before they went missing and were found again in 1734.
They were stolen in 1802 from the Royal Chamber of Art by an indebted jeweller, Niels Heidenreich, who melted the gold to make jewellery and counterfeit coins.
The horns are a national symbol known to all and have even inspired a famous poem penned by Danish writer Adam Oehenschlaeger.
Experts said the thieves would not be able to sell the treasures.
"The thieves cannot put them to any use whatsoever," said Michael Fornitz from Copenhagen's Bruun Rasmussen auction house.
"Maybe they thought the horns were made of solid gold and thought they would melt them down. But they are gilded and do not have any intrinsic worth."
He also shot down the idea that a collector could have ordered the theft.
"Our experience shows that this hypothesis only exists in detective novels," he said. "Collectors are proud of showing off their acquisitions, not hiding them."
Danish police have meanwhile stepped up a search for the thieves who fled from the precincts in a Volvo V40, according to witnesses.