The 15 rings, necklaces, pins and more shown in “Jewels of Titanic” are very much real and were recovered from the 2.5-mile debris field surrounding the now century-old RMS Titanic wreckage on the North Atlantic Ocean floor.
Adding some sparkle just in time to tempt holiday visitors, officials with Atlanta-based Premiere Exhibitions Inc. brought the pieces together here from six other simultaneous “Titanic” exhibits around the country as well as from “rest” (aka storage). Spokeswoman Katherine Seymour said the exhibitor was responding to guest requests for more jewelry and greater detail about the people who owned the fine pieces.
But even when the provenance (record of ownership) remains as murky as that ocean graveyard, these diamonds, sapphires, pearls and other jewels still possess the power of connecting us to those who perished or had their lives forever changed when the grand ship met its icy fate in April 1912.
Most would have remained lost to the ocean depths if not for the 1987 discovery of a Gladstone handbag into which bank notes, gold sovereigns and jewelry held in a Purser’s Office safe apparently was emptied amid the chaos of the order to abandon ship. The jewels secured in the handbag were preserved by chemicals used in the tanning process of its leather.
Among the finds on view:
- A "Gold Nugget Necklace" boasting one chunky nugget on a chain displayed above two large dangling nuggets. The chain itself sports a series of smaller nuggets. It's believed to have been a gift from J.J. Brown, a partner in Colorado's Little Jonny Mine, to his wife Margaret Tobin Brown, the socialite-philanthropist-activist who later became known as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."
- The pocket watch of Thomas William Solomon Brown, a South African hotel owner who was in the process of moving to Seattle along with his wife Elizabeth and their 15-year-old daughter Edith. When the Titanic started to sink, Brown put his wife and daughter on a lifeboat. They survived; he remained onboard and perished. After the watch was recovered, its face turned brown, it was presented to daughter Edith. She kept it by her bedside until her death.
- A ring featuring a natural blue oval sapphire surrounded by 14 small diamonds that form pear-shaped petals, similar to one Princess Diana chose for her engagement to Prince Charles, and that Prince William, in honor of his mother, presented to Kate Middleton.
- A filigree pendant featuring 74 small old rose cut diamonds accented with nine missing stones, presumed to have been pearls.
Seymour said Premiere Exhibitions’ mission with the pendant and all the Titanic artifacts is do only what is necessary to stabilize the pieces. “Our goal is to conserve each piece as it was found,” she said, “not to restore it to its original lustre.”
Premiere will not divulge how much the salvaged jewels are worth, but suffice it to say that security is well in force.