A Private Collection of Post Medieval Gold Jewellery Discovered in Jamaica, West Indies

A Private Collection of Post Medieval Gold Jewellery Discovered in Jamaica, West Indies

This collection of 16th-18th century rings and other jewels was discovered in the dried-up riverbeds around Old Spanish Town in Jamaica by a relative of the vendor, who was a keen detectorist in the mid 20th century.

Now one of the principal islands in the Caribbean, the explorer Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica as part of the Spanish Empire in 1494, the Spaniards building their capital, known as St Jago de la Vega, on the West bank of the Rio Cobre. When in 1655, the English conquered Jamaica, the capital was renamed as Old Spanish Town. A devastating earthquake in 1692 destroyed the English administrative centre at Port Royal, and Spanish Town became the English capital on the island, remaining so until 1872 when the seat of the colony was moved to its current home in Kingston.

Jamaica was a vital and volatile place during the mid 17th to mid 18th centuries, and formed part of the Triangular Transatlantic Slave Trade. Trade ships sailed from Europe to the African coast, exchanging manufactured goods and weapons for slaves, then on to the Caribbean to sell the slaves, and returned to Europe with goods such as sugar, tobacco and cocoa. The period from 1716 to 1726 is known as the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’, when Anglo-American sailors and privateers in the Caribbean, left unemployed by the end of the War of Spanish Succession, turned en masse to piracy, targeting the bounty laden ships that sailed the routes around the Caribbean seas. These jewels were presumably lost to the river during this turbulent period of Jamaican history.