Art Hostage Services
The Art Hostage team undertakes a wide range of services, including due diligence, collection conservation and management, risk assessment and security as well as legal issues, recovery and dispute resolution involving art and artifacts. Through partnerships with leading organizations, the Art Hostage team can provide a complete service for all aspects of collecting and protecting art.
Stolen Art Watch, Oakland Museum Gold Heist, Take Two Take Away
Precious jewel box stolen from history room at Oakland Museum of California, Value $800,000
OAKLAND -- The
Oakland Museum of California is offering a $12,000 reward for a Gold
Rush-era quartz and gold encrusted jewel box stolen from the permanent
collection during the second heist in as many months.
took the historic "Comstock Jewel Casket," which is covered in
California gold, from a museum exhibit in the history wing Monday
morning while the museum was closed.
A second artifact also was
taken, but officials wouldn't release information about what the item
was or how much both pieces are worth. They are particularly worried the
burglar will try to melt the irreplaceable box made from gold-bearing
moss quartz that hasn't been mined in California since the 19th century
and which was stolen and returned once before to the museum in 1978.
"This is a theft of our history and the heritage of our children," Mayor Jean Quan said Wednesday.
Monday, the thief apparently forced his way into the second floor
exhibit through an emergency exit door just a few feet from where the
3-pound jewel box was encased in a Plexiglas display wired to an alarm.
security guard heard the alarm and could see the intruder on a screen
in another section of the compound that stretches for a city block along
The guard called Oakland police, but the thief had already left by the time officers arrived.
The description of the man was vague except that he was wearing a white mask, "which is relatively unique," said Lt. Oliver Cunningham Wednesday at the museum.
said investigators believe the thief was the same man who broke into
the same exhibit about 11:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12.
Gold nuggets and other, undisclosed artifacts, some more than 200 years old, were stolen during that break-in.
The museum increased security after that burglary.
heightened security worked, "but obviously we would like the security
measures to be better or this wouldn't have happened," museum Executive
Director Lori Fogarty said.
Other than these two burglaries,
Fogarty said she couldn't remember another break-in since she arrived at
the museum seven years ago.
The museum, however, has experienced several important changes recently.
Oakland Museum of California Foundation took over running the
day-to-day operations in July 2011 and recently finished extensive
The museum collection belongs to the city of
Oakland, and this is the second time the coveted casket, made about
1875, has escaped the museum's control. The first time was after hours
on March 1978 and was the first forced-entry theft in the institution's
more than 40-year history.
That year, a thief forced his way into the room through a door from the
garden and stole the Comstock Casket, about the size of a small shoe
box, made by an artisan San Francisco goldsmith, A. Andrews, as a
wedding anniversary gift in the 19th century. He had decorated the
inside with scenes of trains crossing the plain, Indians on horseback
and buffalo herds, and the box rested on four feet formed of miniature
representations of Minerva, a symbol of California.
anonymous donor purchased the box for $11,400 and gave it to the museum
in 1969 when it opened. An ivory Eagle valued at $10,000 also was stolen
but was recovered when police arrested the thief, William E. Murray.
seven years passed before the Comstock Casket finally landed in the
hands of the Butterfield and Butterfield Auctioneers and Art Appraisers
in San Francisco.
The casket was valued at $100,000, said Michael
Weller, owner of Argentum Antiques in San Francisco, shortly after he
helped reunite the Comstock Casket with the museum in 1985.
The casket hasn't been appraised since then, Fogarty said Wednesday, although it is insured.
"It is less about monetary value than the history the artifact embodies," Fogarty said. "It is a critical piece."
Police are asking anyone with information about the box to call 510-238-3951.