"They broke off about 10 inches by 10 inches ... and there were a bunch of tools here," Marinescu said.
Marinescu said he had a feeling they would come back for more. Indeed, he said the entire fireplace had been stripped of its original hand-glazed ceramic tiles by Tuesday afternoon.
"[The tiles are] very valuable, and you can see they're not your normal tile," Marinescu said. "They're very thick."
Marinescu found a picture of the vintage tile designs in his fireplace on the CalTiles Company Web site. Antique tile dealers said the Mayan motif design dates back to the mid-1920s and is worth $8,000 to $10,000.
Marinescu is convinced the thieves knew what they were taking.
"They robbed me of something I loved," Marinescu said. "I love this house. I worked very hard for it, and that's where I'm at."