OAKLAND -- Police have released a picture of a missing historic box made of California gold and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that was stolen from the Oakland Museum of California last week.

The museum's insurance company is offering a $12,000 reward for the return of the Gold Rush-era quartz and gold box with ornamentation depicting scenes from early California, museum officials said.

"With an object like this it's less about the value of the actual material then it is about the historical value," said museum Executive Director Lori Fogarty. "The (monetary value) can fluctuate depending on how it's sold, who is looking to buy and what the demand is."

A scale used to weigh gold was also taken during the Jan. 9 heist but it was later found elsewhere at the museum, Fogarty said.

The theft, which occurred when the museum was closed, was the second break-in at the facility at 1000 Oak St. in two months. 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, museum officials said.

During last week's theft, a security guard heard the alarm and could see the intruder on a screen in another section of the compound, which stretches for a city block along Oak Street. The guard called Oakland police, but the thief had already left by the time officers arrived.


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Since the latest heist, Fogarty said the museum has added round-the-clock inside security guards and night guards outside the museum. The museum has also added cameras, alarms and additional interior and exterior lighting, she said. The museum has also signed a contract with a security consultant to assess security systems and identify what more can be done to keep the place safe.

Museum officials say the historic jewelry box was made between 1869 and 1878 by a San Francisco goldsmith, A. Andrews, who also signed the piece. It is 7 inches tall, 9 inches long, and 7 inches deep, according to a description from the museum.

Museum officials are worried the thief will melt down the irreplaceable box, which includes gold that hasn't been mined in California since the 19th century.

This is the second theft of this box. It was also stolen in 1978 but later found and returned to the museum by an art appraiser in 1985. The appraiser did not know the box was a stolen item.

The previous burglary happened about 11:30 p.m. Nov. 12. Gold nuggets and Gold Rush-era pistols were stolen during a late-night break-in.

Video surveillance tapes were reviewed, but no arrests have been made in the November theft and the items have not been recovered. In the November burglary, police said someone broke a door to get inside the museum and then exited the building through a different door.

The museum, which has more than 1.8 million objects, opened in 1969 and is dedicated to collections of art, history and natural science related to California and its people.

Anyone with information on either theft is asked to contact the Oakland Police Department's Major Crimes Section at 510-238-3951 or the TIP LINE at 510-777-2805.

Questions about the jewel casket artifact or the Oakland Museum of California should be directed to 510-318-8460 or info@museumca.org. More information can be found at museumca.org/reward.

Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender.