Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Thieves got into the museum's Malcolm MacDonald Gallery late on Thursday, April 5, making off with an 18th century jade bowl and a porcelain figure group. Museum officials described the Qing dynasty objects as highly significant examples of their type.

The large 15in (38.8cm) jade bowl, dating from 1769, is from the collection of Sir Charles Hardinge, a British collector of jades and other hardstones. A Chinese poem is written inside.

Also taken was a Dehua porcelain sculpture with a cream white glaze of seven fairies in a boat measuring 11¾in (30cm) in both height and length.

A spokeswoman for Durham police said it was possible the items may have been stolen to order for a foreign collector. The thriving Chinese art market has increased the risk of raids on museums housing oriental collections, with smaller museums particularly vulnerable.

Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to contact Durham police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.