VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.
GOLD AND EMERALD TREASURE FROM THE NUESTRA SENORA DE LAS MARAVILLAS
From the moment that Columbus completed his epic voyage of discovery in 1492 the riches of the New World lured the intrepid traveller. During the succeeding centuries, Spanish fleets braved the hazardous seas in their quest for treasure. These early trips were rewarded by the spoils they seized from the Indian tribes, then the secrets of the fabled emerald mines of Muzo and Chivor in Colombia were revealed to the conquistadors, along with pearls from the shores of Venezuela, vast deposits of silver from the Potosí mine in Bolivia and gold mined in Colombia and the surrounding regions.
By the 17th Century, weakened by war in Europe, Spain came to rely more and more on colonial spoils. The cargoes increased as the need intensified, and late departures - due to overloading - meant that return journeys were embarked upon in dangerous conditions. Such was the fate of the Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas which had set out from Spain in 1654 in a flotilla comprising eight galleons, four merchant ships and two small vessels. The Maravillas carried the following passengers, 153 soldiers, 14 officials, 27 sailors, 17 gunners, and 13 ship's boys. Each ship carried fifty-eight bronze cannon of various sizes. The Maravillas with her accompanying vessels sailed from Spain via the Canaries, where a three-day stop was made to replenish supplies and pick up more passengers. The fleet then headed south by southwest and arrived in the Province of New Granada (present day Colombia, Venezuela and part of the isthmus) on 22 August, 1654 after a journey taking 95 days. According to the records, the Maravillas loaded up with silver, gold and emeralds before arriving at Porto Belo, Panama on March 25, 1655 where she took on board a five foot high solid gold Madonna and a 400 lb. table encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds before joining the other ships and sailing for Havana on 3 July, 1655. However, a couple of weeks later they spotted some distant ships and fearing an attack from the British, they headed back for Mexico landing at the port of San Juan de Ulna on 2 August, 1655. By 7 September they had again set sail for Havana where they anchored offshore on 10 October and repairs included a new rudder and deck knee supports for the Maravillas. A priest records how the fleet left Havana on 1 January, 1656. During the fourth night he was awakened by the boatswain's shouts and hurrying on deck he discovered they were in 13 fathoms of water in the Bahamas Channel... 'I found some alarmed, others confused and everyone giving opinions about what should be done.' In the retreat to deeper water several ships collided in the darkness and the Maravillas sank.
The wreck then lay untouched for over 300 years until it was rediscovered by Robert Marx in 1972. Marx had researched and hunted for treasure all over the world, both onshore and off, before coming across nautical charts in the archives of Serville which gave the location of the Maravillas and included a cargo manifest. Those records eventually led to his discovery of the bow section of the Maravillas in May, 1972 (cf. R. Marx, Quest for Treasure, 1982) but disputes arose with the Bahamian Government and the salvage attempt was abandoned. In 1986 Captain Herbert Humphreys negotiated a successful contract for the salvage rights with the Bahamanian Government, and in return for the protection of his research vessel Beacon by the Bahamanian Defence Force. Captain Humphreys agreed to give the Government a quarter share of everything salvaged.
'The business of recovering sunken treasure is at times boring, tedious, expensive and dangerous. But it is also one of the most exciting adventures left on earth. To dive beneath the sea and hold in your hand a weapon, a coin, a piece of jewellery or a tool that belonged to some unknown man or woman long dead to the search, is an experience few people can have. I have seen the stuff that dreams are made of.' Captain Herbert Humphreys Jr.
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
A group of five jewels from the Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas, previously sold by Christie's London, October 1990.