Sunday, February 12, 2012

Titanic Jewelry Highlight to Mark the 100th Anniversary of its Sinking

On a chilly April 15 back in 1912, the great White Stars ocean liner, Titanic sank on her maiden voyage. The ship labelled as "unsinkable" had tempted fate. 1518 people perished.


The enduring fascination with this tragedy will peak once more with many planned events as the 100th anniversary approaches.

There are even Titanic memorial cruises!  One $60,000  2-week cruise also includes an 8-10 hour dive in a submarine! Only for those with very deep pockets and who don't suffer from claustrophobia!

On April 11,  Guernsey's Auctioneers will be selling off more than 5000 Titanic artifacts as a single collection. One of the items is this bracelet below.  This very personal of belongings is a poignant reminder of this devastating event.


This auction is controversial as is the company which is selling the artifacts.  The artifacts were collected via submarine from what is essentially an underwater grave site - something some people prefer it remain undisturbed.  Having said that, artifacts are often salvaged from other wrecks which also involved the loss of human life, so the Titanic is no different except in the scale of the disaster.

There are conditions to this sale. The collection cannot be broken up and must be available for research, education and public display. So it will most likely go to a museum. 

April will also see the re-release of James Cameron's 1997 Titanic movie in 3D format.

Perhaps it's been a while since you watched the movie. But do you remember that beautiful blue diamond necklace worn by the fictional heroine,  Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet)?  Check out the movie trailer which shows several scenes featuring this necklace.

The Heart of the Ocean diamond necklace, as wo...
Heart of the Ocean by Ben Sutherland via Flickr



The Heart of the Ocean necklace was created specifically for the movie. The London based Asprey and Garrard designed it using a blue cubic zirconia set in white gold.

There really was a blue gemstone necklace on board the Titanic but it was a square cut blue sapphire. It belonged to Kate Florence Phillips. It was a gift from her married lover, Samuel Morley. Both were fleeing to America to begin a new life. This love story is believed to have inspired the movie.

Morley did not survive the sinking.  Placed in a lifeboat, Kate made it with just a nightgown, the necklace, keys and a purse. She bore his child, conceived on the crossing.  Likely due to the shame of being an unwed mother and a husband-stealing one at that, Kate neglected and abused their love-child. She eventually died in an asylum.

Their daughter, Ellen Walker,  lived until she was in her 90's.  After Ellen's death,  her ashes were scattered near the area where her father was lost. Ellen Walker had tried for years but failed to get her father's name put into her birth certificate. For some reason, she sold that necklace years before her death. More of Ellen's story is here.
 
Much of the jewelry that went down with the Titanic were small items.  However, Lady Duff Gordon (played by Rosalind Ayres in the movie), a noted London fashion designer, had a $50,000 strand of pearls on loan from her jewelers in Venice. It  was placed in the purser's safe which went down with the ship.


English: Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon
Madam Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon via Wikipedia
Also lost were her emerald and pearl cross earrings shown in her picture below. These were Duff Gordon family heirlooms, a wedding gift from her husband.

Madam Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon

The Sphere (London, 27 April 1912),  p. 72

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (north-east of New York) where I live, is significant in the story of the Titanic.

English: Map marks the route of RMS Titanic du...
Route and location of the Titanic via Wikipedia
Even though Halifax was the nearest major seaport with rail connections, the survivors were taken directly to New York because the captain of the rescue ship, Carpathia, had to turn southwards to avoid the icebergs.

The grim tasks of body recovery and burial were left to Canadian cable ships and the city of Halifax.  150 bodies were buried in various city cemeteries including that of Irishman Joseph Dawson who was a coal trimmer in the ship's boiler room.

Although James Cameron denied Dawson was the inspiration behind the movie hero, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), busloads of young female fans nevertheless wore down the path to his gravestone which is simply marked, "J. Dawson". They left flowers, movie ticket stubs and so on there in the aftermath of the blockbuster movie.

One of several permanent collections of Titanic exhibits is located here at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Many of the artifacts were donated or loaned by the descendents of mariners who not only helped recover the bodies but salvaged floating debris as mementos in an old maritime tradition called "wreckwood".

A particularly poignant and moving exhibit at this museum is this pair of toddler's shoes from the body of an unidentified little boy.  Unlike other personal belongings on the recovered bodies, no relative claimed them. They should have been burned along with other unclaimed items in order to deter souvenir hunters. But the police officer in charge was so overcome, he couldn't bring himself to burn the tiny brown leather shoes, so he kept them. Many years later, his grandson donated them to the Maritime Museum.

Titanic Lounge (Picture Source)
Halifax will inundated with visitors this year due to the anniversary. One interesting event is a historic dinner theater production called Titanic :The Fated Voyage .  The tasteful production aims to set the right historic mood for the audience with the first class lounge setting, period songs and music and an authentic menu - the same that was served to the actual passengers on that fateful night. The cast of 8 will play real and fictional characters in the 3-act show.

References
Before You Go :
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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 

10 comments :

Willi said...

Wonderful post with great stories.

Anonymous said...

A fellow Bluenoser! I was thrilled to see in this post that you are in Halifax. I somehow missed that when I signed up for your newsletter. I love your newsletter and appreciate your generosity in sharing your website for free. It is such a great resource and inspiration! Thanks for all you do : )

Tina (in Windsor, NS)

AntiquityTravelers said...

great post! there is a whole story line to the titanic woven in to Downtown Abbey on PBS.. if you watch that? I love how they seem to have captured the period within this show. I love the styles, the dresses and jewelry - it is all so romantic

Roberta said...

I just watched the movie the other night. I hadn't seen it for a long time.

It is a haunting story.

Sally Anderson said...

This was so fascinating! I had no idea that the role of Halifax was so huge and poignant. (For some reason, I had thought you were in western Canada, not Nova Scotia). The whole post was just so interesting. Thank you very much for it!

Carol said...

I enjoyed the history lesson Pearl. Thanks, it was very interesting to read about the connection between Halifax and the Titanic.

Pearl Blay said...

Ah yes, Tina - I am indeed a Blue-Noser although one by adoption! Glad you enjoy my blog as much as I do writing it.

No, I haven't yet seen Downtown Abbey although I am aware of the plotline connection to the Titanic. Will have to get the DVD some time!

Anonymous said...

Pearl,
Once again you've dug up some fabulous history for us. One of the most fascinating things about historical jewellery for me is that one can actually see (and sometimes touch!) jewels worn and loved by someone from a former generation. It makes me feel connected to them, which is the point of all the interest in the Titanic relics. Thank you for your marvelous blog.

moushka26 (at) yahoo dot ca

Jewel Divas said...

I saw this on tv and thought, why didn't they track down the relatives and hand on the things that have been found. Essentially, they have found and are now selling, things that do not belong to them, but I'm sure relatives would have wanted their things.

Pearl Blay said...

It was much, much harder in those days as communication channels aren't like it was today. Also many of the victims came from the steerage class ie they were poor. Their relatives would not have had the means to claim the articles. That is why that police man kept the shoes because the little boy had no one to mourn him.

After all this time it is also very difficult to track down the descendants of those who perished and to establish their relationship especially if the items were not of significant monetary value.

Museums are full of artifacts taken from tombs too.

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