Ring with an emerald from a 400-year-old shipwreck is up for auction for Ukraine aid


If “Titanic” is one of your favorite movies and you’ve dreamed about having a piece of jewelry from the bottom of the sea, an emerald ring up for auction might pique your interest.

The Nuestra Señora de Atocha was one of 28 ships that left Havana for Spain on Sept. 4, 1622. The following day, a hurricane hit the fleet in the Florida straits. The Atocha sank, taking the lives of 260 passengers (only three sailors and two enslaved people survived) and unimaginable wealth.

In 1969, American treasure hunter Mel Fisher began a quest to find Atocha’s treasures. Over the years, Fisher’s crew recovered a few silver and gold bars, coins and jewelry. Then, in 1985, they hit the motherlode.

Along with 180,000 silver coins, 24 tons of silver ingots and 125 bars of gold bullion, the shipwreck contained 70 pounds of emeralds experts traced to the Muzo mine in Colombia.

Frank Perdue, CEO of the Perdue chicken empire, was Fisher’s treasure-hunting benefactor. Because of this, he received some of the bounty, including a 6.25-carat emerald. After giving most of the items away, Perdue had the stone cut and mounted onto a ring to give his future wife, Mitzi, when he proposed in 1988.

Forbes shared a photo of the ring in a Twitter post linking to its article about the emerald.

Perdue passed away in 2005, and his wife, known for her philanthropy, has now offered the ring at auction. The total proceeds from the ring, which has an estimated value between $50,000 and $70,000, will support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

“I’m overjoyed to offer this extraordinary piece from my private collection,” Mitzi told Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council. “While I have cherished my beautiful engagement ring for over 30 years, I would like to use it now to benefit the great people of Ukraine. I am honored to partner with Sotheby’s in offering this jewel for auction this year, on the 400th anniversary of the Atocha Shipwreck, and I know my late husband, Frank Perdue, would share my desire to help those in dire need.”

The ring will be presented at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction on Dec. 7 in New York. In addition, if you’re in the city, you can view it during a public exhibition at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning Nov. 30.

“It’s not every day that we offer long-lost, hidden treasures discovered from the depths of the sea, concealed by tide and time for centuries,” Alexander Eblen, Sotheby’s New York jewelry department senior specialist, told the Rapaport Group.

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Tricia Goss

Tricia is a professional writer and editor who lives in North Texas with her family and one smelly dog. She is a wannabe problem solver, junk food maven professional coffee practitioner, web guru and general communicator. More.

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