Monday, April 25, 2016

4/25/16 Report - Spanish Colonial Finger Rings and Deagan's Book. Book On Finger Ring Lore.

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Yesterday I talked about the observation that silver rings are not found on 1715 wrecks.  The day before that I showed a silver ring that was in question.  Deagan's book on Spanish colonial artifacts shows that some, though not a lot of silver rings have been found at Spanish colonial land sites, but even those are few, especially in comparison to finger rings made of other materials such as copper alloys.

Deagan's book includes an extensive table showing the number of personal items of adornment going to the New World between 1526 and 1613 as indicated by shipping records of the period.  To give an example of one of the largest quantities of finger ring shipments in the table, 7,200 sortijas de vidrio (rings of glass) were shipped in 1590.

I haven't really looked into it, but don't recall any detectorists or treasure salvors reporting glass ring finds.  In fact, I just looked in the Mel Fisher artifact database and found glass items, but no glass rings.  There were beads, buttons and unidentified glass fragments, but no finger rings.

In the metal detecting world, you would expect that most finds would be metal.  Besides not being detectable, glass might be broken into small pieces and might not be easy to see in different environments.

That is just one reason there might be a big difference between what is out there and what is found. Some items are found more easily than others and some items are preserved much better than others. Metal items, big items and durable items will be found disproportionately when compared to items lost in similar numbers.

There are differences between what items were shipped to the colonies and the types of items shipped from the New World back to Spain.  Large numbers of cobs are found because they are metal, do not generally break down completely in the surf, were shipped from the New World in large quantities, and are detected by metal detectors.

I often talk eye-balling, which will help you find non-metallic items.  From time to time I also talk about techniques such as sifting.

Just as an example, the table shows 36 annilos de alquimia (gilded rings) being shipped in 1592.  Also, 432 sortijas de alquimia (rings with metalwork) were shipped in 1602.  Those are still small numbers when compared to rings made of non-metallic materials.  Compare that, for example, with the 7200 glass rings shipped in 1590 alone.

I'll have to do some research, but I'm not aware of glass finger ring finds made either by detectorists or treasure salvors.   Neither am I aware of finds of  rings made of other non-metallic materials, despite the large number that were shipped to the new world. Not surprisingly, underwater finds appear to be heavily skewed in the direction of metal items.  One of the more significant exceptions seems to be the emeralds that have been found on some shipwrecks.

I am wondering why silver rings seem to be so scarce on 1715 Fleet ships while gold and copper alloy rings are not so scarce.   I'll eventually throw out some ideas for your consideration.  At this point I have a few ideas.  I am considering sociological as well as economic and other reasons.  I want to do a little more research before putting those ideas out there.

I am still looking for ideas to explain the apparent lack of silver rings being found on the 1715 wrecks.



The picture of the eroded renourishment sand at Jupiter in my 4/23/16 post was not a recent picture.  It was from early 2015.  Sorry for any confusion.  I didn't post those pictures as an indication of current conditions.  I just wanted to use the pictures to talk about renourishment sand.


Here is an interesting book, Finger Ring Lore; Historical, Lengendary, Anecdotal by William Jones.

You can read it online by clicking on the title.

Sailors and shipwrights have long believed a silver coin under the mast brings good luck.This practice started with the Romans, whose custom was to place a coin in the mouth of a dead person to pay Charon, the boatman who ferried the souls.


Happy hunting,