19th century jewel-encrusted crown stolen from French museum

LYON (AFP) - A 19th century crown, encrusted with almost 1,800 gem stones, has been stolen from a museum of religious art in central France, the museum authorities said Saturday (May 13).

The thieves broke in overnight Friday and managed to overcome the "sophisticated security system" at the Museum of Fourviere in the city of Lyon, the museum said in a statement.

They got away with the Crown of the Virgin, the centrepiece of the collection, which was created in 1899 with 1,791 precious stones and pearls gifted by well-to-do Lyonese families of the day.

The value of the piece was put at "a little over a million euros". Each gemstone was painstakingly logged last year by a team of researchers, the museum said, a fact that will help trace each part of it.

The robbers got away with two other pieces from the museum's permanent collection, a ring and a chalice.

The museum, situated on a hill next to a basilica, was closed as investigations continued.

The museum displays treasures from the basilica which are representative of the work of goldsmiths in the 19th and 20th centuries.