From The Blog

2,500-Year-Old Gilded Mask With Gemstone-Inlaid Eyes Discovered at Egyptian Burial Ground

An Egyptian funeral mask crafted of gilded silver and dating back to 664-404 BCE is being called a “sensation” by archaeologists at Germany’s University of Tübingen. Discovered deep within a necropolis in Saqqara, Egypt, the mask of an ancient priest has eyes inlaid with calcite, obsidian and a black gemstone, which is believed to be onyx. The thin layer of gold leaf that once adorned the entire mask has mostly worn away. “The finding of this mask could be called a sensation,” noted Dr. Ramadan Badry Hussein, the head of the German-Egyptian team. “Very few masks of precious metal have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most Ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times.” Hussein explained that the mask was found on the face of a mummy, which had been placed in a wooden coffin. The badly damaged coffin had once been plastered and painted with an image of the goddess Nut and still includes the name and titles of the mask’s priestly owner, who lived during the Saite-Persian period about 2,500 years ago. “Ancient Egyptian funeral masks of gold and silver are extraordinarily rare,” added Professor Christian Leitz, head of Egyptology at the University… Read More

Unmanned Sub Positively IDs 300-Year-Old Spanish Wreck Laden With $17B in Gold and Emeralds

Utilizing an unmanned submersible vehicle at a depth of 600 meters, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) positively ID’d the San José — a 62-gun, three-masted Spanish galleon that has been called the “Holy Grail of Shipwrecks.” The ill-fated ship had been en route to Spain in 1708 laden with a cargo of emeralds, precious-metal coins and jewelry estimated to be worth $17 billion. A quartet of British warships sank the galleon near Colombia’s port city of Cartagena, and for hundreds of years, treasure hunters speculated about the exact location of the wreck and the untold riches it contained. WHOI researchers maneuvered the REMUS 6000 robotic submarine to within 30 feet of the wreck — close enough for cameras to capture images of the distinctive dolphins engraved on the ship’s massive bronze cannons. When they are finally recovered, the gold coins of the Galleon San José are likely to look similar to these specimens salvaged from a 1715 Plate Fleet wreck off the coast of Florida. “The wreck was partially sediment-covered, but with the camera images from the lower altitude missions, we were able to see new details in the wreckage and the resolution was good enough to make… Read More

Blue Diamond Owned 300 Years Ago by the Queen of Spain Fetches $6.7MM at Sotheby’s Geneva

A 6.16-carat blue diamond owned more than 300 years ago by Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, fetched $6.7 million at Sotheby’s Geneva yesterday. The winning bid crushed the auction house’s pre-sale high estimate by more than $1.7 million. The historic “Farnese Blue” was originally presented in 1715 as a wedding gift to the Spanish Queen by the governor of the Philippine Islands. Secreted away in a royal jewelry box, the pear-shaped, fancy dark grey-blue diamond traveled across Europe for centuries, as the Queen’s descendants married into Europe’s most important dynasties. For 300 years, the gem would stay in the same family, but would never be seen in public. In fact, except for close relatives and the family jewelers, no one knew of its existence. Recently, the diamond emerged on the market for the first time and was highly touted by Sotheby’s in the run-up to the Geneva auction. In fact, the Farnese Blue headlined a promotional tour that made stops in Hong Kong, London, New York, Singapore, Taipei and Geneva. As the final lot of yesterday’s auction, the Farnese Blue didn’t disappoint. Bidding started on Lot 377 at $3.6 million and advanced rapidly in $100,000 increments. After four minutes, the… Read More