• Friday, October 24, 2014

Family finds 300-year-old sunken treasure off Florida's east coast

Reuters, Orlando
A high karat gold Pyx which was believed to have been hand crafted in the late 1600's - early 1700's for transporting a Eucharist (communion wafer) is seen in an undated handout photo from 1715 Fleet-Queen's Jewels. Photo: Reuters
A high karat gold Pyx which was believed to have been hand crafted in the late 1600's - early 1700's for transporting a Eucharist (communion wafer) is seen in an undated handout photo from 1715 Fleet-Queen's Jewels. Photo: Reuters

A Florida family scavenging for sunken treasure on a shipwreck has found the missing piece of a 300-year-old gold filigree necklace sacred to Spanish priests, officials said on Tuesday.

Eric Schmitt, a professional salvager, was scavenging with his parents when he found the crumpled, square-shaped ornament on a leisure trip to hunt for artifacts in the wreckage of a convoy of 11 ships that sank in 1715 during a hurricane off central Florida's east coast.

After the discovery last month, a team of Spanish historians realised the piece fit together with another artifact recovered 25 years ago. It formed an accessory called a pyx, worn on a chain around a high priest's neck to carry the communion host. The dollar value is uncertain.

"It's priceless, unique, one of a kind," said Brent Brisben, operations manager for 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels, which owns rights to the wreckage, located in 15-foot (4.5-meter) deep Atlantic Ocean waters.

Schmitt, who lives near Orlando, last year discovered about $300,000 worth of gold coins and chains from the same wreckage, Brisben said. Schmitt's parents have hunted for sunken treasure as a hobby for a decade.

By law, the treasure will be placed into the custody of the US District Court in South Florida, Brisben said. The state of Florida may take possession of up to 20 percent of the find. The rest will be split evenly between Brisben's company and the Schmitt family.

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, July 31, 2014

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