Thursday, November 5, 2009

Treasure - Pieces of 8

Pirates are very in right now, everything cycles. When I was a little girl, the family would watch "The Wonderful World of Disney" on the black and white TV. One show that sticks in my mind was "Treasure Island" with pirates and treasure.....pieces of 8 and gold dubloons. While researching the coin we used when we made this new piece, I found out that pieces of 8 are really 8 Reales; a silver coin usually made in Mexico and then shipped to the East Indies to purchase silk, spices and precious gems.

One ship, the ship this coin came from, The Vliegenthart (Dutch for Flying Heart) left for the East Indies on Feb. 3, 1735. This was a fairly new ship, specially rigged for the dangerous voyage around the Cape of Good Hope. Unfortunately, the ship never left the port of Rammekens in Zeeland (the Netherlands.) Caught by a storm it was slammed into a sand bar, damaging the hull. When the ship slipped off the sand bar, it sunk rapidly in about 60 feet of water; all hands were lost.

The Dutch East India company immediately began a salvage operation but only a few items were found. The treasure would have remained lost, but a secret map was discovered by researchers in 1977 which pinpointed the location. The gold coins recovered were noted carefully in the ship's manifest, but not the silver coins. They are thought to have been stowed on board to exchange in the East Indies where their value was higher. One of the first evidences of smuggling.

Who knew jewelry could be so interesting!


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