By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla., July 27 (Reuters) – A Florida family who has hunted treasure for years found more than $1 million worth of gold artifacts this summer from the wreckage of a 1715 Spanish fleet that sank in the Atlantic, according to a salvage company’s estimate.
The find included 51 gold coins of various denominations and 40 feet (12 meters) of ornate gold chain, said Brent Brisben, whose company, 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC, owns the rights to the wreckage.
The Schmitt family – parents Rick and Lisa and their two children and daughter-in-law – who hunt for treasure off their salvage vessel Aarrr Booty, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Brisben said Rick and Lisa’s 27-year-old son, Eric, found and recovered the pieces in June.
Brisben said he timed the announcement to coincide with Friday’s 300th anniversary of the sinking of 11 galleons brought down by a hurricane off the coast of Florida as the convoy was sailing from Havana to Spain.
Eric Schmitt found the artifacts in 15 feet (4-1/2 meters) of water off Fort Pierce, approximately 130 miles (210 km) north of Miami.
The Spanish convoy’s manifests indicated the ships carried cargo valued today at about $400 million, of which $175 million has been recovered, Brisben said.
His company bought the rights to the site in 2010 from heirs of the legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher and the firm allows others, including the Schmitts, to search under subcontract agreements.
The centerpiece of the Schmitt’s latest find is a perfect specimen of a coin called a royal made for Spain’s King Phillip V and dated 1715. Only a few royals were known to exist, according to a news release from Brisben’s company.
The gold chains are made of small, handcrafted, two-sided links of six-petaled olive blossoms. They were called money chains and are believed to have been used as a tax-free coinage, the news release said.
Under federal and state law, Florida will take possession of up to 20 percent of the find for display in a state museum. Brisben’s company and the Schmitt family will split the reminder, Brisben said. (Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Beech)