17th century silver bar realises $40,000 at Christie’s

Christie’s has sold a 17th century silver bar recovered from the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha.

The piece realised $40,000 on January 20, surpassing its $25,000 estimate.

Silver ingot Christies

The ingot was underwater for almost 400 years

It remains in great condition despite centuries in the deep, with its original stamps still visible.  

The Atocha was a Spanish treasure ship that sank in a fierce storm during the summer of 1622, shortly after leaving its harbour in the Florida Keys.

It was so weighed down with gold and silver that its loss (along with that of sister ship the Santa Margarita) almost torpedoed Spain’s economy.

While the Spanish managed to salvage some of the cargo, using a primitive diving bell and some reluctant slaves, most of it remained below the waves.

In 1985, treasure hunter Mel Fischer discovered the wrecks. After a legal battle with the state of Florida, he was awarded rights to the entirety of the loot.

This ingot was one of many he managed to salvage.

Jill Waddell of Christie’s said: “In actuality, it looks as though it has fallen off the moon. It’s got this wonderful, deep-grey, craggy surface, and the marks remain deep and clearly legible.

“It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve handled in my career, and captures a remarkable moment in history.”

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