Jewels by Art Deco master stolen

When workers at the Museo del Corso in Rome opened the box from New York that was supposed to hold precious jewelry by art deco master Erte, they found lots of wrapping paper-and very few jewels, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Fifteen of the 26 pieces loaned by private collectors for an Erte exhibition in Rome are missing, curator Francesco Maria Messina said Tuesday, the AP reported.

“The external packaging of the box we received was intact. But when we opened it, we saw that a smaller package inside had been tampered with and almost all the jewelry was missing,” Messina said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

He said investigators believe the theft took place before the package reached Italian customs. Judging from the way the wrapping was torn, it appeared the thief was in a hurry, Messina said.

Anna Santi, a museum spokeswoman, said it is unclear exactly what happened, but insisted the problem was on the other side of the Atlantic, where the jewelry was packed, the AP reported.

The exhibit, which opens to the public on Wednesday, features 180 pieces, including furniture, gouache and sculpture, by the Russian-born fashion illustrator and costume designer Romain de Tirtoff.

De Tirtoff, who was known as Erte, enjoyed his heyday in Paris in the 1920s. He died in 1990 at age 98.

Among the missing pieces is “Foxes,” a delicate gold necklace with stylized fox heads, encrusted diamonds and other precious jewels, and many pins, rings and earrings, the AP reported.

The items going on display will include “Soleil Noir,” a pearl and diamond ring, and golden earrings known as “Cascade III.”

Museum officials gave no estimate on the value of the stolen jewelry, the AP reported.