By Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC ……
Today we will cover some of the most important artifacts from the 1715 Fleet you can find in our upcoming auction. These pieces are important for either their rarity, their quality, their provenance or all of the above.
Sedwick’s Treasure, World and U.S. Coin & Paper Money Auction #22, is our 5th LIVE PUBLIC FLOOR sale, and will take place at the DoubleTree by Hilton at Lake Buena Vista in Orlando, FL, with live floor auction on Thursday-Friday, November 2-3, 2017 and lot viewing and guest speakers the day before (Wednesday, November 1).
Lot 1473: Gold-and-pearl “Madonna” brooch, large and ornate, from the 1715 Fleet, plated in Dreamweaver. 59.79 grams, about 3-1/2″ x 2-1/4″.
A large and very ornate pendant of an articulated type known as a “venera”, featuring a crowned female over an angel face superimposed over an upward-facing crescent moon (topped with small posts, one of which still bears a pearl), all in a central open oval surrounded by 22 sunrays tipped with pearls, fastened to a frame of alternating large and small five-point ornaments with more pearls on top (on loose posts fastened with Y-backs) and on ends, with small loop at bottom, that whole piece suspended from a moving “crown” of similar ornaments encrusted with more pearls, the back showing a large horizontal ring for wearing as a brooch or pendant. This piece has popularly been referred to as the “Madonna” brooch, but more accurately the central figure appears to be Our Lady of Guadalupe (similar to the medallion from the 1733 Fleet plated on pages 158-9 of Weller’s Galleon Alley book of 2001). The pearls (52 remaining) are all a bit worn and quite a few are missing, but more egregious is the absence of 11 gemstones (presumably emeralds) from now-empty sockets that show traces of light encrustation (hence they were lost or removed before salvage), although it is possible the gems were to be added later when this relic made it to Spain. The gold itself is all intact and visibly high grade.
Clearly a museum piece, one of the most important 1715-Fleet artifacts we have ever offered, reportedly recovered by John Berrier and Duke Long in 1989. From the “Rio Mar” site, with Fisher photo-certificate #1611 and photocopy of a hand-drawing by K. Amundson, and featured in color photo on page 193 of Dreamweaver (1996), by Bob “Frogfoot” Weller.
Lot 1474: Matched pair of gold-and-pearl earrings from the 1715 Fleet. 7.09 grams total, each about 2-1/4″ long.
Nearly identical earrings, made with a hoop of gold at the top, quatrefoil ornament with pearls on posts below that in the middle and the bottom piece being a pearl-strung straight wire with trefoil at top and ring at bottom, each with 11 pearls total, all very small and worn but none missing, an intact pair that can still be worn and matches the previous lot (“Madonna” brooch) in style, possibly from the same ship of the 1715 Fleet but reportedly found farther up the coast. With Fisher photo-certificate #41562 (showing both earrings) and original yellow-plastic tags #41562 and 41563.
Lot 1476: Gold chain, 66.54 grams, 24 inches long, heavy-braid links with original clasp, from the 1715 Fleet.
Thick links of boxlike braiding somewhat tightly spaced to make a very ductile chain, completely intact with ring at one end and Y-shaped piece at other end (connected with oblong jumper) for fastening to the ring, eminently wearable and attractive. With Queens Jewels LLC photo-certificate #F040982 (tag #75905).
Lot 1484: Ornate silver shaker (pounce box) from the 1715 Fleet. 313 grams, 2-3/4″ cube.
Unlike gold, very few shipwreck silver artifacts are solid enough to emerge from conservation as bright and beautiful and functional as they day they were made. But this is one of those rare relics, with every finely engraved detail in the (separate) lid and embossed design on the side intact and unblemished, just a tiny corner-chip in the lid and verdigris in one corner of the plain inside of the box, the lid designed with 18 small holes in a floral pattern in a concave circle on the top for sprinkling a fine powder (pounce) over fresh manuscripts to prevent the ink from spreading. With Queens Jewels LLC photo-certificate #F040818 (tag #77225).
Lot 1482: Gold-and-emerald ring, size 7-1/4, from the 1715 Fleet, 5.05 grams.
Very solid and intact ring with rectangular, table-cut emerald of decent translucence and color in a scallop-base frame, the ring itself with straight sides, high-karat gold. From the “Cabin wreck” site, found on the beach in 1985, with a photo-certificate from salvager Carl Lazzeri and another from Daniel Frank Sedwick.
Related Important Item
Lot 1460: Unique set of newspapers with accounts on the sinking and salvage of the Spanish 1715 Treasure Fleet, consisting of four issues of The Post Boy (London) from 1715-16.
Four very rare, complete issues of The Post Boy, a major London newspaper, from November 19, December 8 and 19, 1715 and July 3, 1716, each issue a single 14” x 8” sheet (“broadsheet”) of high-quality rag stock printed on both sides, and in Fine to Very Fine condition. In all probability these papers are the only ones in private hands.
These four historic newspapers provide accounts of the legendary disaster and Spain’s frantic attempts to recover the hundreds of millions of dollars of gold and silver coins and precious jewels carried by 11 Spanish galleons, accompanied by a French warship that was the only ship to escape the hurricane on July 30, 1715, as the treasure-laden Fleet attempted to sail from Cuba to Spain. Hundreds of seamen and passengers drowned in the vicious storm with the survivors going to St. Augustine or Havana. Although much of the treasure was salvaged over the next few years–and present-day salvors have uncovered millions of dollars in coins and jewels–more treasure remains unclaimed in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Florida. Several whole ships have yet to be found.
The first report of the disaster in the November 19, 1715 issue reads:
“Letters from the Havana, of the 17th of September, advise that the Flotilla, consisting of Ten Ships, met with such a violent Storm, upon the 31st of July, that they were forced to run ashoar upon the Coasts of Florida, 50 Leagues from Cape S. Augustin, and 20 from Cape Canaveral; and that only one Ship, v.z. the Flying-Hart, escaped: That upon this News, several Ships were immediately sent from the Havana to fish up the Gold and Silver; that good Part of it was already recover’d and particularly that on board the Urza de Lima; and that it was hoped, most of the rest would likewise be got up. They add, that 4 or 500 Men were drown’d, and among them several Passengers. This News was brought to Rochelle by the S. Francis, whose Cargo is very rich, consisting of 500000 Pieces of Eight besides Merchandizes.”
Further details from the December 8 issue are more positive (possibly to buoy public opinion on the disaster). Some of the reporting stated:
“We have receiv’d better News concerning the Flota of New Spain…that only two Ships of it were cast away; Some others were indeed run aground upon the Coast of Florida; but all the Gold and Silver, and most of the Merchandizes were taken out of them.” The King then sent four ships to Florida, “…and shall take on board those of the Flota, which amount to 12 Millions of Crowns in Gold and Silver only.”
From the December 17, 1715 issue came the following:
“Letters from Cadiz, of the 28th past, say, that all possible Diligence is used in fitting out the Men of War, which are to go and take on board the Cargoes of the Galleons run aground upon the Coast of Florida. By a Vessel arrived from thence they heard, that the Galleons could not be put a float again; but the Chests of Gold and Silver had been all taken up, and great part of the Merchandizes; so that only the Cochineal will be lost.”
Finally, after just over six months of salvage attempts, the July 3, 1716 issue reported the following gleaned from letters from Havanna at the end of March:
“…they had recover’d out of the Capitana, a thousand Chests of Silver, and seven hundred and fifty out of the Admirante (Almiranta), but no Merchandizes out of those two Ships, whereas all those of the Urca de Lima had been fish’d up; that some English Barques being come in Sight of Palmaer, five (Spanish) Barques were fitted out at the Havana to observe them; that nevertheless the English seiz’d some Part of the Plate above specify’d whereupon a Deputy was order’d from the Havana to the Governor of Jamaica to complain of that proceeding…”
These newspapers represent highly important accounts of the disaster and the subsequent attempts to salvage the enormous treasure Spain and other European countries were counting on for their economies. In our time, ironically, these newspapers are vastly rarer than the treasure itself!