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Ref  HM7   Abbatucci Shipwreck Gold Chain

An 18 carat gold watch chain, circa 1860, recovered from the wreck of  the General Abbatucci. The substantial chain is of staple link form incorporating revolving wheels within reeded circular links to a t-bar terminal. It is 13 inches long and weighs 46 grams. Provenance : Christies, The Abbatucci Cargo sale, 7th October 1997, lot 123.

On May 7th, 1869 the General Abbatucci sank in tragic circumstances. The ship had left Marseilles the previous day on a routine voyage to Civitavecchia, Italy. On this trip, as well as the normal trade shipments, she was believed to have been carrying far more exciting cargo. It was thought to have consisted of several million French francs destined for the Vatican, birthday gifts for Pope Pius IX from church officials in France and payment for the French army in Italy. The passengers included dignitaries and wealthy merchants, Pontifical guards and the Pontifical Consul representing the Holy See in Marseilles who was returning to Rome. Unfortunately this particular voyage was to be short-lived, as during the early hours of the morning the ship was involved in a collision off the north Corsican coast. The Edward Hewit, a Norwegian barquentine, hit the General Abbatucci. She took on water at great speed and sank within two hours, with the loss of 54 lives. The newspapers recounted survivors' tales of  futile attempts made by panic stricken noblemen to secure their safety by casting their valuables at the feet of the crew, but little could be done. It was reported that women passengers removed their jewellery before jumping overboard. The Times reported, 'The Captain and 54 persons were saved, and have been brought to Leghorn almost naked, the accident having happened early in the morning, when most of them were in their berths. Several sailors and a much larger number of passengers were lost'. The General Abbatucci and her treasures lay untouched on the seabed until she was discovered in 1996, 127 years after her tragic end.

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The General Abbatucci

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