The Schmitt family, who made national news over Labor Day weekend in 2013 after salvaging 60 feet of gold chain off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida, has struck gold again. On Memorial Day of this year, Eric Schmitt recovered a 300-year-old solid gold religious artifact at the same underwater site.
The square-shaped piece functioned as the back portion of a handcrafted gold-filigree pyx, a small case used to house the Eucharist, which serves as a representation of Jesus' body during the Communion aspect of a Catholic mass.
Lisa Schmitt, part owner of a company called Booty Salvage and the mother of Eric, commented, "It was our follow-up to our big find. It's been there 300 years, and it's still intact. It's just amazing that it's not broken."
Here is the moment the treasure was uncovered:
Brent Brisben, co-founder of 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels LLC, the company that owns the rights to dive on the wreckage site, revealed that experts said that the pyx dates back to the late 1600s or the early 1700s. The hunting grounds comprise the combined wreckage of a fleet of Spanish ships struck by a hurricane off the coast of Florida in July, 1715. More than 1,000 sailors were killed in the storm that claimed eleven of the dozen ships that were headed to Spain.
"This pyx would have belonged to a very high-ranking church official and, given its incredible craftsmanship and beauty, may have been destined for the pope," Brisben said. "This really has become probably the most unique artifact that has ever come off the 1715 fleet. It hasn't been appraised yet, but I'm calling it priceless," Brisben added.
The state of Florida has dibs on all of the Schmitt's finds, and up to twenty percent of the loot might end up in museums. The rest is split fifty-fifty between 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels LLC and Booty Salvage.
Here is a clip concerning Booty Salvage:
Interestingly, the piece that Eric Schmitt recovered fits perfectly into an incomplete "picture frame" that was discovered in 1989. Both pieces, it turns out, formed the complete pyx. The "picture frame" part of the pyx had been sitting on display in the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West for over twenty years. The frame is now privately owned, which makes it unlikely that the state of Florida will confiscate the new find.
Image via YouTube