Florida family finds $1 million in gold from historic shipwreck

51 coins, 'money rope' recovered off Fort Pierce

SANFORD, Fla. - A Central Florida family discovered over $1 million in gold treasure from an historic shipwreck off the Florida coast.

[PHOTOS:  $1 million in gold artifacts discovered]

The Schmitts, of Sanford, working as subcontractors for 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels, recovered 51 gold coins, including a single "royal" coin made for King Phillip V of Spain, and 40 feet of ornate gold chain in connection with the 1715 Treasure Fleet, which sank along Florida's Treasure Coast 300 years ago this week.

The artifacts were discovered in shallow waters, about 15 feet deep, off Fort Pierce, about 30 miles north of West Palm Beach, the company said.

The 1715 fleet is considered one of the most important maritime tragedies in history. Eleven galleons laden with treasures from the New World and returning to Spain departed from Havana, Cuba, on July 24, 1715, and were shipwrecked in a hurricane a week later.

Seventeen Eight Escudos, 22 Two Escudos and 12 One Escudos were recovered. The gold chains are an ornate design consisting of countless small, handcrafted links, each of which is a two-sided, six-petaled flower called "olive blossom," the company said.  The chain is believed to have been a tax-free alternative to coins and was often called a "money chain."

"These finds are important not just for their monetary value, but their historical
importance," said Brent Brisben, owner of 1715 Fleet-Queen's Jewels.  "One of our key goals is to help learn from and preserve history, and this week's finds draw us closer to those truths."

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