Sourcing

Muzo’s Collection of Shipwrecked Emeralds Makes US Debut

SourcingFeb 12, 2024

Muzo’s Collection of Shipwrecked Emeralds Makes US Debut

The three pieces, recovered from a 17th century shipwreck, are set with emeralds from Colombia’s Muzo mine.

Muzo Private Collection royal orb
This royal orb, or globus cruciger, containing Muzo emeralds was recovered from the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha in 1985. It is now part of the Muzo Private Collection.
New York—Mined in Colombia, Muzo emeralds long have been one of the world’s most coveted gemstones.

While historians believe indigenous peoples were in the Muzo mines as early as 500 A.D., the Spanish, who colonized Colombia starting in the 16th century, often are credited with the discovery of the verdant gems.

With the Spanish in power, gems flowed out of the country alongside other South American commodities, like gold, silver, and tobacco, on global trade routes for royals and Mughal emperors seeking the most spectacular specimens, said Muzo Emerald Colombia, the sales and marketing arm of the company that now owns and operates the famed mines.

Three pieces of emerald jewelry in the cargo aboard one particular ship, which never completed its voyage, now comprise the Muzo Private Collection, which made its U.S. debut last month at The Winter Show, an invite-only premiere art, antique and design fair in New York.

The Muzo Private Collection, Atocha cross, the royal orb, Atocha ring
Muzo acquired the Atocha cross, along with the royal orb and the Atocha ring, in 2014. Today, they are the three jewels that comprise the Muzo Private Collection. They each contain emeralds from the Muzo mine and were discovered in the wreckage of sunken Spanish ship the Nuestra Señora de Atocha.

In 1622, Spanish galleons, including the Santa Margarita and the Nuestra Señora del Rosario, departed from ports in present-day Colombia, Panama, and Cuba on a return voyage.

One vessel owned by King Philip IV of Spain, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, was carrying a nearly unfathomable load of cargo.

It took two months to load all the goods on board, according to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida.

Muzo said the cargo had an estimated value between $250 and $500 million.

Unfortunately, the ship, also carrying 265 people, got caught in a storm and sank, the museum said, and while rescuers tried to retrieve what they could, they eventually had to mark the site of the wreck and move on to rescue people and treasure from the other ships caught in the storm.

Not long after, a second hurricane struck, further destroying the Atocha and scattering the wreckage for miles.

In 1969, American treasure hunter Mel Fisher began searching for the ship’s sunken remains, Muzo said.

In 1973, silver bars matching the weights and tally numbers on the ship’s cargo manifest were found, confirming the hunters were close, according to the museum, and in 1975, more cargo was recovered.

The Santa Margarita was discovered in 1980 and, finally, in July of 1985 the Atocha—the “motherlode”— was found and excavation began.

The loot included a small cache of rough Muzo crystals, though thousands more gems are thought to remain at the bottom of the ocean, said Muzo.

Some finished emerald jewelry survived the shipwreck, including lavish gold jewels, crosses, brooches and other ornaments, each characteristic of 17th century Spanish court style.

Three pieces found their way back to Muzo, which said it was those existing cargo documents that helped identify and confirm the emeralds’ origin.

“We have three of the most important pieces that contain Muzo emeralds in a piece of jewelry,” said Gabbi Harvey, the company’s head of business development.

Muzo invested in the pieces in 2014 – the royal orb, a cross on a necklace, and a ring.

Atocha Ring
The Atocha ring features a single 2.5-carat emerald with a slight chip.

While Harvey described the pieces Muzo acquired as the “most significant” recovered from the shipwreck, they are not the first emeralds from the Atocha to make headlines.

In December 2022, Sotheby’s New York auctioned a 5.27-carat octagonal step-cut emerald ring crafted from one of the rough emeralds discovered in the wreckage.

It sold for $1.2 million, blowing its $50,000-$70,000 pre-sale estimate out of the water.

The ring had been the engagement ring of author Mitzi Perdue, wife of chicken magnate Frank Perdue, one of the financial backers of Fisher’s search and recovery mission. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

The recovered goods bring new insights into the workings of the world during that time in history. 

Specifically, the finished jewelry that was recovered demonstrates the sophisticated techniques and craftsmanship of 17th century jewelers, Muzo said.

The orb with the cross, also known as a globus cruciger, was traditionally used as an emblem of Christ’s power by Christian monarchs or to indicate Christ’s sovereignty over the cosmos.

The one recovered from the shipwreck is thought to have been a processional orb used in annual celebrations by the church for Easter or saints’ days. 

Elegantly designed, with scrolled Spanish cannetille filigree and Muzo emeralds, it represents the world, the company said, and the cross overlaid onto the orb speaks to the divine and God’s omnipresence.  

Because the orb contains so many emeralds, 37, it most likely was made by goldsmiths in Colombia, Muzo said.

The other two pieces were named in honor of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha.

The Atocha cross is a 22-karat yellow gold and emerald cross found in the hull of the sunken vessel. Muzo said it represents the “most prized of all artifacts” from the wreck.

The Atocha ring is a high karat gold ring typical of the wealthier class during the 17th century. It is a size 5.5 and features a single 2.5-carat emerald with a slight chip. 

In 2018, Muzo manufactured its own collection inspired by the Atocha pieces, the Heritage Collection.

“I think what’s important for us as well is [looking] at these pieces that were created in the 1700s and [seeing that] the craftsmanship of these pieces was so innovative and so up-to-today. The manufacturing hasn’t really changed, the craftsmanship hasn’t really changed,” Harvey said.

“[The Heritage Collection] was an opportunity to bring back the past.” 

The Muzo Private Collection, as well as some pieces from the Heritage collection, were on view at The Winter Show in New York in January. 

It was the collection’s first time on public display in America and added to the discussion of what’s next for these irreplaceable artifacts of history.

“They were received beautifully [at the show], and the story is so incredible, and we do think it needs to be shared with everyone else,” Harvey said.

“We didn’t realize how many people knew about the Atocha and how significant it was. It’s really for a shame for us to keep these wonderful artifacts in a safe, so we’ve had brief discussions that perhaps we will put it in a museum; it just has to be the right place.”

Until the perfect opportunity presents itself, the Muzo team plans to cherish their time with the collection.

Harvey summed it up, “It’s a piece of Muzo. It’s a piece of Spanish history. It’s quite an incredible find.”

The Latest

Lightbox lab grown diamond pendant in yellow gold
Lab-GrownFeb 26, 2024
Lightbox ‘Significantly’ Lowered Its Prices in Q4

The De Beers-owned lab-grown diamond company dropped the price on its standard offerings from $800/carat to $600/carat.

JA New York signs
Events & AwardsFeb 26, 2024
JA New York to Bring the Diamond District to Spring Show

The upcoming show will have an immersive “47th Street Experience” for attendees.

GIA Dubai laboratory
GradingFeb 26, 2024
GIA Opens Lab in Dubai

The new DMCC Laboratory at Uptown Tower will initially serve clients in Dubai free trade zones.

GIA id100
Brought to you by
Full Disclosure at Your Fingertips

Distinguishing natural diamonds from laboratory-grown stones – now more available than ever – has been difficult for jewelers. Until now.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 with affirmations
WatchesFeb 23, 2024
Rolex to Open New Watchmaking School in Dallas

The Rolex Watchmaking Training Center will welcome its first class this fall.

Weekly QuizFeb 22, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
Guzema Freedom heart pendant for Ukraine
CollectionsFeb 23, 2024
Piece of the Week: Guzema’s ‘Freedom’ for Ukraine Pendant

Ukrainian jewelry designer Valeriya Guzema’s charitable “Freedom” collection is inspired by hope for the country’s future.

Elton John’s leopard print Rolex Daytona watch
AuctionsFeb 22, 2024
Elton John’s Leopard-Print Rolex Roars at Auction

Two Cartier watches also topped their estimates at Christie’s “The Collection of Sir Elton John: Goodbye Peachtree Road” evening sale.

flashforge pic.png
Brought to you by
WaxJet: Revolution in Jewelry Manufacturing

The WaxJet 400, recognized as the world's fastest wax printer, is bringing in a new era of precision and efficiency to industry.

Buccellati header
TrendsFeb 22, 2024
Buccellati to Open ‘Prince of Goldsmiths’ Exhibition

Set to be held in Venice, it’s a look through the maison’s history.

Sebastian Clarke and Katherine van Dell of Heritage Auctions
AuctionsFeb 22, 2024
Heritage Auctions Adds 2 New Hires to West Palm Beach Office

Sebastian Clarke and Katherine van Dell, frequent appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow,” will join the new office.

National Jeweler columnist Sherry Smith
ColumnistsFeb 21, 2024
On Data: January Was a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Independent Jewelers

Sherry Smith dishes on the month’s highs and lows and the two categories consumers were loving ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Stock image of diamonds
GradingFeb 21, 2024
GIA’s Same-Day Service Now Available Everywhere

The new service, introduced to stem fraud related to lab-grown diamonds, will be offered at no cost for the time being.

Jam + Rico Claire’s jewelry
CollectionsFeb 21, 2024
Jam + Rico Debuts Second Claire’s Collection

Founder Lisette Scott was inspired by the intricacy, colors, and symbolism of African art and architecture.

National Jeweler columnist Peter Smith
ColumnistsFeb 20, 2024
Squirrel Spotting: Life After Rolex

Peter Smith shares advice from independent jewelers who used losing this cornerstone brand as a catalyst for reinvention.

Neile Adams McQueen and Steve McQueen
AuctionsFeb 20, 2024
Jewels from Neile Adams McQueen Shine at Bonhams

All 13 lots belonging to the actress and first wife of Steve McQueen sold at the recent “California Jewels” sale.

Stuller bench jeweler
Events & AwardsFeb 20, 2024
Stuller to Host Bench Jeweler Workshop in March

Registration is also open for its “Battle of the Benches” challenge.

Mary Ball Gorman of Henry B. Ball Jewelers
IndependentsFeb 16, 2024
Mary Ball Gorman of Henry B. Ball Jewelers Dies at 99

Gorman was an industry trailblazer, serving as the first female treasurer of Jewelers of America.

Jade Ruzzo gold and diamond Tennessee Torque necklace
CollectionsFeb 16, 2024
Piece of the Week: Jade Ruzzo’s Tribute to Tennessee

The movement of the 18-karat gold and diamond “Tennessee Torque” necklace is subtle.

Jared Goff and Claudia Cividino
MajorsFeb 15, 2024
Detroit Lions’ QB Jared Goff Going to Jared

Goff, whose fans hold up “He Went to Jared” signs at games, has signed a partnership with the retailer.

De Beers Venetia diamond mine
SourcingFeb 15, 2024
De Beers’ Production Down 8% in 2023

The company recovered 31.9 million carats of diamonds in 2023, compared with 34.6 million in 2022.

Gina D’Onofrio Heritage Auctions
AuctionsFeb 15, 2024
Heritage Auctions Names New Co-Director of Fine Jewelry

Industry veteran Gina D’Onofrio has rejoined the auction house.

Indian Diamond and Colorstone Association (IDCA) awards
Events & AwardsFeb 15, 2024
IDCA Hands Out Awards in Tucson

The association also celebrated its 40th anniversary.

A selection of engagement rings
TrendsFeb 14, 2024
5 Engagement Ring Trends for 2024

From three-stone rings to fancy shapes, experts weigh in on what consumers could be looking for this year.

Boucheron Power of Couture
CollectionsFeb 14, 2024
Boucheron’s New High Jewelry Collection Pays Homage to Ceremony, History

“Power of Couture” recalls Frédéric Boucheron’s love of fabric using diamonds and rock crystal.

Rough diamonds from Gahcho Kue diamond mine
SourcingFeb 14, 2024
De Beers’ Rough Diamond Sales Improve Slightly

The diamond miner and marketer said “solid” holiday sales in the U.S. helped stabilize the industry.

Jonker I Diamonds
SourcingFeb 14, 2024
‘100 Carats’ Exhibition Opens at LA Museum

A new display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County features dozens of gemstones each weighing 100 carats or more.

Grand Seiko New York City flagship
WatchesFeb 14, 2024
See Inside Grand Seiko’s New NYC Flagship

Located on Madison Avenue, the store is its largest in the world.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy