On August 16, 1987, an unmarked Gladstone leather satchel was recovered from the debris of the R.M.S. Titanic. In it were 15 priceless artifacts, including diamonds, sapphires, pearls and gold jewelry that once belonged to some of Titanic’s most affluent passengers.
Protected by the leather bag, these jewel remained in pristine condition — despite sitting 2.5 miles underwater for 75 years. They were separated and sent on a three-city tour, but the jewels are now reunited and on display through May 31 as part of the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at Luxor Hotel and Casino.
Free with paid admission to the artifact exhibition, Jewels of Titanic exposes stories of the jewelry’s discovery and recovery. It also attempts to uncover the lineage behind some of the pieces.
Though the jewels were found in one bag, Misty Talson, head registrar for Premier Exhibitions, said it does not mean they belonged to one person. The leather satchel containing these jewels was most likely the purser’s bag, she explained. The purser may have removed the bag from a safe in order to return the pieces to their owners once the ship started sinking.
See the Titanic exhibit
at the Luxor
Among the pieces is a 15-karat gold chain containing several good luck charms including a pig, clover and a star with a rose-cut diamond and an inscription “This be your lucky star.” Seeing the charms, which were believed to ward off evils, it’s hard not to help but wonder about the fate of the chain’s owner.
Talson said Premier Exhibitions is doing ongoing research to try and match the jewels up to passengers. A custom-made gold-nugget necklace, for instance, may have been a gift to passenger Margaret “Mollie” Brown from her husband, who had purchased a gold mine in Colorado.
One of the only pieces definitively matched up to a passenger was the pocket watch that belonged to 2nd Class passenger Thomas William Solomon Brown. The 60-year-old hotel owner did not survive the tragic event. The recovered watch was returned to his daughter Edith in 1993. Edith Brown Haisman, had also been on board the Titanic but along with her mother survived the sinking. When Edith passed away in 1997 at the age of 100, her will donated the watch back to Premier Exhibitions.
You will also learn a bit about the jewels influence on today’s pop culture. Take, for instance, the heart-shaped blue diamond (“Heart of the Ocean”) given to Kate Winslet’s character in the 1997 film Titanic. The “Heart of the Ocean” does not exist — it was created for the film. However, the exhibit explains that this a fictional piece of jewelry may have been based on a $750,000 diamond and pearl necklace purchased in 1909 by a streetcar magnate named George Widener for his wife, Eleanor. The Wideners were passengers on the Titanic. Eleanor survived, but her husband George and son Harry did not.
If $750,000 is out of your price range (and remember that was back in 1912) you can find replicas of some of the pieces on display, including a gorgeous pear-shaped diamond ring flanked by two round diamonds, available for purchase in the gift shop, with prices ranging around $200-$500.
Here is a preview of some of the jewels on display: