A centuries-old artefact belonging to the founding father of osteopathic medicine has been stolen from a museum exhibit in Auckland.
The priceless piece - a gold watch fob with two charms attached - was owned by American physician Dr Andrew Taylor Still, who is noted as the first practitioner and teacher of osteopathy; an alternative medicine that uses massage and other physical manipulation techniques of muscle tissue and bones.
Many photographs of Dr Still, who died 100 years ago in 1917, show him wearing the gold chain watch fob.
The charms - an American-Indian chief's head and a brown stone cross - pay tribute to Dr Still's American-Indian heritage and Christian faith.
On the side of the chief's head is the inscription: "A.T Still.''
The chain was taken during the Osteopathic International Alliance Conference hosted in Auckland, at the SkyCity Convention Centre, between September 8-10.
It disappeared from a museum exhibit display on Saturday, September 9.
Director of the US-based Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, Jason Haxton, who travels with the exhibit around the world on behalf of the A.T Still University, said the disappearance was a huge blow.
"It was devastating,'' he said.
"There was an incident where we were helping someone who had a vision problem in the exhibit - he got kind of trapped in the exhibit - and as we were moving him to the lecture hall, someone said: 'Can I see the watch fob?'
"And it was gone.''
The material value of the piece is worth about $800, Haxton estimated, but to the university and those in the osteopathic medicine world, it is priceless.
Haxton had been in touch with SkyCity staff and the NZ Police, but pursuing the issue had been difficult given he and other members of staff had travelled back to the US a day after the conference.
They have been closely monitoring Trade Me and eBay for any signs of the piece, but were appealing to pawn shop owners to keep an eye out.
In a bid to get the chain back, a $1000 no-questions-asked reward is being offered for the safe return of the chain, or any information that leads to the return of the artefact.
Haxton was also appealing to the person who took the piece to do the right thing and hand it back.
"The man who had this really didn't have any personal things.
"He gave everything away - all of his millions - and so the only thing he kept was his Indian charm because he was part American-Indian and his stone cross because he was Christian," he said.
"Maybe if they see the story and read it, maybe they'll feel guilty and send it back."