Oakland Museum Offers $12,000 Reward for Stolen Gold Rush-Era Jewel Box

Police say the theft of the jewel box on Monday may be related to another break-in at the museum in November.

Updated Jan. 9, 12:46 p.m.

Bay City News Service—The Oakland Museum of California today (Wedesday) announced a $12,000 reward for the safe recovery of a Gold Rush-era jewel box that was stolen from the museum during a break-in on Monday morning.

The object is described as a 7-by-9-inch quartz- and gold-encrusted box that weighs about 3 pounds and depicts scenes of early pioneer life.

Museum director Lori Fogarty said the box was a wedding anniversary gift for the wife of a California pioneer who had come out West in the late 1800s.

"This truly is an invaluable item in terms of California history," Fogarty said.

She said the object had last been appraised about 30 years ago, and that she does not know its current worth. The box has been part of the museum's collection since the 1960s, she said.

Another item was taken in the Monday burglary, but it is of less historical and monetary value, Fogarty said.

The burglar was caught on surveillance video, and was described by police this morning as a black male with a medium complexion who is 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall. At the time of the burglary, he was wearing a white mask, a dark hat, dark jacket and dark shoes.

Police are investigating whether Monday's burglary is connected to an overnight burglary at the museum that was discovered the morning of Nov. 13. In that case, several items, including gold nuggets, were taken from display cases.

"There were striking similarities between the two incidents," Oakland police Lt. Oliver Cunningham said at a news conference at the museum this morning.

In both burglaries, the suspect forced entry in a similar manner and ran off with items.

There are now three empty spaces where display cases in the Gold Rush section of the California history exhibit were burglarized. In front of one of the empty spaces there is a sign that reads, "Artifact temporarily removed."

The gold-and-quartz box was taken from an alarmed Plexiglas case, police said.

Because the museum is near the Oakland estuary, police have a marine unit searching the waterway for any evidence, Cunningham said.

Authorities are concerned that the stolen jewel box could be melted down for its materials or otherwise destroyed.

"This isn't something that can just be sold on a street corner," Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said this morning. "This is a theft not just of a valuable item, but of our history."

Fogarty said the museum is under 24-hour security and, since the November incident, the museum has added cameras and guards. Security guards at the museum are not armed, and in the case of a forced entry are required to call Oakland police, who responded Monday within minutes, according to Fogarty.

Cunningham said it is possible the suspect may have inside information about the museum or has been monitoring the space.

The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. It reopened as scheduled today at 11 a.m.

Anyone with information on the burglaries is asked to call the Police Department's Major Crimes Section at (510) 238-3951 or the tip line at (510) 777-2805. Information can also be given through the Oakland Museum of California website at museumca.org/reward.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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Paul D January 10, 2013 at 03:18 PM
1. Suspect the guards. 2. Suspect ex-guards. 3. Suspect the alarm company. 4. Suspect ex-alarm company workers. 5. Lock the doors at night.
Lisbeth Allen January 10, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Why not just give away the contents of the museum to the community on Freecycle or Craigslist instead of letting insiders walk away with everything?


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