Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Article: The Hidden Legacy: Unveiling the Secrets of the Spanish Shipwreck's Emerald


The Hidden Legacy: Unveiling the Secrets of the Spanish Shipwreck's Emerald

Today, 38 years have passed since the 'Nuestra Señora de Atocha' emerald was discovered by a group of treasure hunters after an intense search for the Spanish galleon of the same name, which sank in 1622. 

This emerald, from Colombia, has gone through different historical events; a shipwreck, a wedding, a treasure hunt and is currently being auctioned off as a humanitarian aid effort to Ukraine. 

If you want to know the details of the passage of this emerald through history and who its owners have been, we will tell you everything below. 

Chronology of a shipwreck 

The Atocha was a ship in charge of supporting the Spanish colonization, and was returning from an expedition in Havana when it ran into a hurricane and sank. Another ship, the Santa Margarita, suffered the same fate. The ships remained underwater near what is now Florida for more than 300 years.

The 'Nuestra Señora de Atocha' sailed from Havana for Spain on September 4, 1622 with a cargo that included 180,000 coins, 24 tons of minted Bolivian silver ingots, 125 gold ingots and 30 kilos of emeralds. 

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

The precious stone, already polished and in a ring, ended up being the engagement ring given by the late poultry magnate Frank Perdue to his wife, Mitzi, who wore it on her finger until the billionaire's death in 2005. Since then it had been kept in a safe.

colombian emerald 

The `Nuestra Señora de Atocha` emerald originally comes from Colombia. According to historians, it is likely that the jewel boarded the Atocha on September 4, 1622, together with treasures from noble families and other passengers, all of them on their return trip from Colombia and Panama to Spain. 

In addition to 70 pounds of Colombian emeralds, the ship contained 180,000 silver coins, 24 tons of Bolivian silver, 125 gold bars, and a collection of Venezuelan pearls.

emerald auction 

Now, on the 400th anniversary of its sinking, nearly a thousand jewels and artifacts from the ship have recently been exhibited at the Key West (Florida) museum, precisely founded by Mel Ficher, who died in 1998 at the age of 76.

According to Sotheby's, the house that auctioned the jewel, the ship's sunken hold contained some 180,000 coins, 24 tons of minted Bolivian silver ingots, 125 bars of gold ingots extracted from the Caribbean, Mexico and the Andes, and 30 kilograms of carved Colombian emeralds. in the rough, in addition to other treasures.

After Perdue's death, the jewel's owner promised to use that important gem to raise funds. This is how she, after visiting Ukraine this year (2022), decided to auction the jewel that reached a value of $1,197,000.

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.

Read more

Emerald Mines in Egypt

Emerald Mines in Egypt

Emeralds, wonderful precious stones that have captivated millions of people over the centuries, have become the greatest scientific and historical challenge for those who seek to know the origin of...

Read more
Emeralds through history

Emeralds through history

The oldest emeralds date back about 2.97 billion years. The first of these gems were extracted in Egypt around 1,500 BC, in fact, this was one of the favorite stones of Cleopatra, the most famous E...

Read more