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Gold Jewelry

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Artifact Description

A 461-gram gold chain composed of six individual strands crafted with plain oval links, gathered and held together with a gold ring, was recovered off the extreme north/northwest stern area of the “Tortugas”wreck site. Each strand is approximately 2.0m long and contains respectively 770, 762, 762, 766, 761 and 762 links. One link subjected to chemical analysis by Honeywell Materials Testing Lab in Clearwater, Florida, identified the metal as 21-karat purity.

Such chains are familiar from other Spanish colonial shipwrecks. The San Diego sunk off the Philippines in 1600 produced a braided gold necklace or neck chain comprised of 22 strands braided in chevrons from which probably originally hung a pendant. Substantial gold chains have been recovered from the Atocha, at least two 22-karat examples from the Concepción lost off the Dominican Republic in 1641 and from the 1715 fleet off Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, Florida. A 162.5cm-long, 479gms gold chain composed of six strands of fine flattened rectangular links, with a single scalloped gold ring and clasp in the form of four wire loops, was salvaged from the Nuestra Señora de Esperanza, a Spanish galleon of 650 tons lost in Mystery Bay, Gulf of Mexico, in 1658.

The chain’s function remains a matter of conjecture: it may have comprised jewelry or, being intrinsically valuable, could have served as a portable ‘money belt’. Such chains were used for both ceremonial purposes, as conspicuous displays of wealth and were bestowed as diplomatic gifts throughout the 17th century. The heavy “Tortugas” chain is of plain design and may have served a purely decorative purpose or may have been a convenient means of shipping gold in non-currency form. If the latter, the gold chain would parallel the Margarita, where the weights of the largest links were analogous to half and one escudos gold coins

A gold finger ring with a single emerald inset, identified as Colombian in origin, is sufficiently large to have belonged to a man or to have fitted over the gloves of a lady. Seven miscellaneous gold jewelry stems for bead necklaces or from a rosary were also excavated. A fragment of a badly eroded drilled pearl, estimated at measuring approximately 5-8mm in diameter, encircles the stem of one example. Both the ring and gold stems were presumably personal jewelry rather than cargo.


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