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Article: The auction of the Colombian emerald found in Galeón


The auction of the Colombian emerald found in Galeón

A 5.27 carat Colombian emerald was auctioned on Wednesday, June 28, 2023, worth $1,197,000 in the U.S. jewelry Sotheby's.

The emerald, which had been taken away by an American treasure hunter from the Spanish galleon Our Lady of Atocha, would have been taken along with treasures of noble families and other passengers, on a trip of the galleon back from Colombia and Panama to Spain.

Here we will tell you the details of the historical background of this Colombian emerald and what was the event in which it was uploaded this Wednesday.

What happened to the Galeon of Our Lady?

The Atocha was a Spanish ship responsible for supporting the colonization of new lands in South America. After a long time, the galleon was returning from an expedition in Havana, Cuba, when he ran into a hurricane that sank him on the spot.

Another ship, the Santa Margarita, ran on that occasion with the same fate. The ships remained underwater near what we know today as Florida, in the United States, for more than 300 years.

Our Lady of Atocha sailed from Havana for Spain on September 4, 1622 with a load that included 180,000 coins, 24 tons of Bolivian silver ingots, 125 gold ingots and 30 kilos of Colombian emeralds.

It was in 1985 that a treasure hunter recovered the loot and gave the emerald to the poultry tycoon Frank Perdue, for having financed part of the expedition that ended with the discovery of the shipwrecks that had been searched for more than 300 years.

The gemstone, already polished and in a ring, ended up being the engagement ring delivered by the late poultry tycoon Frank Perdue to his wife, Mitzi, who took it on his finger until the billionaire's death in 2005. Since then he had been kept in a safe.

The auction, the destination of the ring with emeralds

During an auction event that took place thanks to the Sotheby's jewelry store, finally on Wednesday it was possible to buy a Colombian emerald that adorned a ring belonging to the wife of a great American tycoon.

The price of the ring (without fees or taxes) was 950,000, almost 20 times the outlet value averaged by the auction house, which had placed it between 50 thousand and 70,000 dollars.

The emerald crowned a ring belonging to Mitzi Perdue, 81, widow of American chicken tycoon Frank Perdue, who financially supported the expedition of treasure hunter Mel Fisher, who in 1985 and after 16 years of search found the remains of the Spanish gallery and the treasures he was hiding.

The auction had aroused some expectation and a few hours before its celebration, Forbes' president and editor-in-chief, Steve Forbes, cheered the atmosphere of American high society and described the emerald auction as a wonderful Mitzi Perdue effort to support the sending of humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

In a brief message on its website, the jewelry and the ring owner invited billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and Mark Cuban to a betting war to take the ring.

By this time, on the 400th anniversary of the sinking of the Galeon, about a thousand jewels and artifacts of the boat have recently been exhibited in the museum of Cayo Hueso (Florida), precisely founded by Mel Ficher, who died in 1998 at the age of 76.

According to Sothebys, the drowned cellar of the ship contained about 180,000 coins, 24 tons of ingots minted in Bolivian silver, 125 bars of gold ingots extracted from the Caribbean, Mexico and the Andes and 30 kilograms of Colombian emeralds carved in rough, in addition to other treasures.

So far the identity of the buyer is unknown, and it will be maintained as usual at auctions.

Paula A. Bonilla 

Social communicator and journalist from Sergio Arboleda University in Colombia. She is also a jeweler and is passionate about constantly learning about precious gems and national high jewelry.

Currently, she is working for one of Bogotá's most important jewelry stores, Emerald by Love. This jewelry store has over 40 years of experience and has 2 physical branches in the capital city of Colombia, located in the city center.

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