Auctions

Jewelry Recovered from Sunken ‘Ship of Gold’ Heads to Auction

AuctionsNov 22, 2022

Jewelry Recovered from Sunken ‘Ship of Gold’ Heads to Auction

The S.S. Central America sank in 1857 off the coast of South Carolina, carrying tons of gold from the California Gold Rush.

A size 8.5 signet ring engraved with initials “SS” may have been owned by San Francisco jeweler Samuel Shreve, who was a passenger on the S.S. Central America when the ship sank in 1857 on a voyage to New York. (Photo credit: Holabird Western Americana Collections)
Reno, Nevada—Jewelry on board a ship that sank off the U.S. coast in the mid-1800s will be available to the public for the first time when it goes up for auction next month. 

The S.S. Central America, or the “Ship of Gold,” sank off the coast of South Carolina in 1857 during a hurricane while traveling from Panama to New York City.

In addition to costing the lives of more than 400 of its passengers, tons of gold bars and coins from the California Gold Rush valued in the millions also went down with the ship. The gold onboard was meant to help banks manage the financial panic that had just started, but its sinking instead exacerbated the crisis.

Insurance claims for the loss were paid in 1850s.

Recovery from the shipwreck occurred in stages: between 1988-1991 and then again in 2014.

The company that discovered and retrieved the sunken treasures settled with insurers and their successors in 1992. With court approval, California Gold Marketing Group acquired clear title to all the artifacts that had been recovered from the ship.

Now, gold jewelry, vintage clothing, and other historic items recovered from the site will be offered at auction on Dec. 3, years after many of them were retrieved from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Much of the gold jewelry was part of a commercial shipment, either carried by one of the jewelers on board or by a separate shipment transported on the voyage going to New York. Gold nugget stickpins were found still attached to their original thick paper boards, ready for resale on the New York or eastern seaboard jewelry market,” said Fred Holabird, president of Holabird Western Americana Collections, which will conduct the auction.

Lots include dozens of 1850s gold rings, stickpins, cufflinks, a gold belt buckle, and several pocket watch cases and covers.

Notable highlights include a rare medal/badge presented by the Order of Saint Maurice and Saint Lazarus, the world’s second oldest order of knighthood. Bestowed by the House of Savoy in Italy, the medal features a white enamel cross representing the Order of Saint Maurice and a green enamel Maltese cross of the Order of Saint Lazarus.

It was retrieved from the bottom of the ocean in 1991 and kept in secure storage for decades.

See: More Pieces in the Upcoming Auction 

There is also a ring engraved with initials “SS” that may have belonged to San Francisco jeweler Samuel Shreve, a passenger on the ship when it sank, rings with heart shapes that would’ve eventually been engraved with lovers’ initials, and California gold-in-quartz items like cufflinks and brooches.

Meanwhile, other interesting items include the oldest known Gold Rush-era heavy duty work pant jeans with a button fly, which may have been made by or for Levi Strauss in his early years of business.

There are also S.S. Central America bottles, tableware, dining utensils, the purser’s keys to the gold treasure room, passenger luggage tags and ticket receipts, hardware from the ship, a navigational octant, and daguerreotype photographs.

“Many collectors have been waiting for these extraordinary items to come on the market since the legendary S.S. Central America was located in 1988 and Life magazine proclaimed it America’s greatest treasure ever found,” said Holabird.

The auction will be held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Nevada and online on the Holabird Western Americana Collections website on Saturday, Dec. 3.

A second auction featuring hundreds of additional artifacts from the shipwreck will be held in February.

In anticipation of the auction, Holabird has created a limited edition 280-page catalog with numerous previously unpublished illustrations of the recovery of the S.S. Central America, some of which are reproduced in 3-D as shot during the discovery missions with a remote-controlled submersible nicknamed “Nemo.”

Copies of the catalog are available for $100 while supplies last.

Auction lots can also be viewed online.

For more information about the auctions or to buy a printed catalog, visit the Holabird website or contact the company at 775-851-1859 or info@holabirdamericana.com

 Related stories will be right here …
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

The Latest

MajorsNov 29, 2022
LVMH Acquires Jewelry Manufacturer Pedemonte Group

The strategic acquisition will bolster the luxury titan’s production capacity in its watch and jewelry division.

CollectionsNov 29, 2022
Alex and Ani Founder Carolyn Rafaelian Has Launched a Fine Jewelry Line

The new brand, Metal Alchemist, focuses on unisex, classic jewelry designs.

IndependentsNov 29, 2022
Reinhold Jewelers’ Holiday Book Is an Ode to an Important Beverage

The 2022 edition of the retailer’s annual publication pays homage to the coffee farms and shops of Puerto Rico.

Brought to you by
Knowledge and Skills for Today’s Hot Topics

From laboratory-grown diamonds to design to country-of-origin, GIA's Alumni Collective™ has a seminar to suite your needs.

CollectionsNov 29, 2022
Gabriel & Co.’s ‘Fashion Book’ Is Out

Not a catalog, the magazine is a tool for Gabriel & Co. retailers to connect with their customers.

Weekly QuizNov 18, 2022
This Week’s Quiz
Test your knowledge of the latest jewelry news with this quick test.
Take the Quiz
MajorsNov 29, 2022
Claire’s to Open Shop-in-Shops in Select U.S. Macy’s Stores

The partnership brings Claire’s jewelry and accessories to 20 Macy’s locations in time for the holiday season.

MajorsNov 28, 2022
Pomellato’s New Videos Raise Awareness of Violence Against Women

Starring CEO Sabina Belli and other celebrities, the videos emphasize the importance of supporting women who have experienced abuse.

Brought to you by
Diamond Shoppers’ 2022 Holiday Wish List

Give your customers the best diamond buying experience this holiday season.

IndependentsNov 28, 2022
Bert Kalisher, an Industry Veteran Who Loved Making Connections, Dies at 97

Kalisher started out manufacturing watch bands and later got into publishing, authoring two books and serving as publisher of Chronos.

Events & AwardsNov 28, 2022
Registration Is Open for AGA’s Annual Tucson Conference

Scheduled for Feb. 1, the event will feature six gemological education presentations and three hands-on sessions.

MajorsNov 28, 2022
The Kingswood Co. Is One of U.S.’s Fastest-Growing Companies Again

The jewelry cleaner manufacturer jumped up to No. 3066 on the Inc. 5000 list.

FinancialsNov 23, 2022
Movado Lowers Guidance Amid ‘Uncertain’ Retail Environment

Its Q3 sales dipped as inflation took its toll on shoppers in the U.S. and Europe.

MajorsNov 23, 2022
De Beers Jewellers Is Popping Up in Connecticut

The temporary store is the result of a collaboration with Betteridge.

CollectionsNov 23, 2022
Piece of the Week: Rembrandt’s Turkey Charm

Charm fans will gobble up this festive “Piece of the Week” pick.

IndependentsNov 22, 2022
See the Greek Jewels Going to Auction for Charity

Several Greek jewelry designers have donated pieces to the annual Hellenic Initiative silent auction.

Events & AwardsNov 22, 2022
Hodinkee to Receive Gem Award for Watch Excellence

Plus, see this year’s list of nominees for the Jewelry Design, Media Excellence, and Retail Excellence awards.

SourcingNov 22, 2022
Head of Australian Miner Burgundy Diamond Resigns

The company announced the resignation of Peter Ravenscroft late last week, effective immediately.

SourcingNov 21, 2022
Provenance Proof Launches Online Marketplace for Traceable Gems

Debuting today, it is open to Provenance Proof blockchain users.

TechnologyNov 21, 2022
Version 2.0 of the NDC’s ‘Assure’ Directory Is Now Live

Assure is the program the Natural Diamond Council launched in 2019 to test lab-grown diamond screening devices.

MajorsNov 21, 2022
JK Findings Acquires Intercept Silver & Jewelry Care

Intercept Silver & Jewelry Care distributes anti-corrosion and anti-tarnish products.

MajorsNov 21, 2022
David Yurman Just Opened a Palm Beach Outpost

It’s located on famed shopping street Worth Avenue.

EditorsNov 18, 2022
9 of My Favorite Pieces from the AGTA Spectrum Awards Editors’ Day

Senior Editor Brecken Branstrator’s highlights include a chrome tourmaline ring, a giant opal necklace, and an American mined stone.

CrimeNov 18, 2022
Jewelry Store Security Guard Killed in Armed Robbery

Police in Calumet City, Illinois are looking for several suspects involved in the robbery of a jewelry store in the River Oaks Mall.

MajorsNov 18, 2022
AGS Adds Sumit Dangi to Board of Directors

Dangi is global chief financial officer and treasurer at Jewelers Mutual Group.

CollectionsNov 18, 2022
Piece of the Week: Tabayer’s ‘Oera’ Pendant

The brand’s signature shape is rendered in an autumn-appropriate color palette.

GradingNov 17, 2022
GIA Labs Report Receiving 2 Moissanites Submitted as Diamonds

The discoveries were outlined in the Lab Notes section of the fall 2022 issue of Gems & Gemology.

MajorsNov 17, 2022
Boucheron’s Magical Holiday Campaign Has Landed

“Boucheron Wonderland” showcases best-selling styles, high jewelry, and some familiar faces.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy