A rare emerald recovered from a 400-year-old shipwreck could fetch $70,000 at auction

The crown jewel of a centuries-old shipwreck is going under the hammer this winter.

The 6.25-carat rare emerald in question, which will top Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction on December 7, has been recovered from the sunken Nuestra Senora de Atocha 37 years ago on one of the most successful treasure hunts of all time.

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For the layman, the atocha was part of a fleet commissioned by the Spanish government in the 17th century to further the country’s exploration and colonization efforts. The galleon left Spain for the Caribbean in March 1622, but sank later that year after being caught in a hurricane near Florida. Fast forward to 1985, when longtime treasure hunter Mel Fisher and his team discovered the elusive Atocha off the Sunshine State coast. The 400-year-old wreck contained a wealth of hidden treasure, including 180,000 silver coins, 24 tons of silver bars, 125 bars of gold bullion and a staggering 70 pounds of rough cut emeralds mined in Colombia.

As patron of atocha Discovery, Frank Perdue of Perdue Farms received some of the treasures from the shipwreck. He later donated the bulk to Delaware Tech and the Smithsonian Institution, but kept this one exquisite emerald. Perdue had the stone cut and mounted on a ring to propose to his wife Mitzi in 1988 before he died in 2005. Mitzi, a well-known author and philanthropist, is now offering the treasure, with all proceeds going to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The step-cut octagonal ring is expected to fetch between $50,000 and $70,000 at the December auction.

Frank and Mitzi Perdue with the emerald ring

Frank and Mitzi Perdue with the emerald ring.

“While it has become a tradition at Sotheby’s to offer the most coveted, exceptional jewels with historical and royal provenance, it’s not every day that we offer long-lost, hidden treasures that have been uncovered from the depths of the sea and by the tides and time,” said Alexander Eblen, senior jewelry specialist at Sotheby’s in New York, in a statement. “We are honored to have been entrusted with this historic landmark from the collection of Mitzi Perdue to serve such a wonderful and valuable purpose.”

Would you like to see it in person? The fabled emerald will be on public display at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning November 30 as part of the Luxury Weeks sales series.

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