CHARLESTON, SC – November 13, 2002 – The scientific staff excavating and conserving the H. L. Hunley submarine has discovered two pieces of jewelry that were brought onboard the Hunley during her historic mission on February 17, 1864. While excavating a block lift containing textiles of Hunley captain Lt. George Dixon, a diamond ring and a diamond broach were uncovered. The jewelry was found between two layers of cloth, meaning Lt. Dixon was most likely carrying the valuable pieces in either his jacket or trouser pocket.
The interior of the submarine housed extremely fragile textiles and artifacts. Last year during excavation, blocks of sediment were lifted out of the submarine and stored, to be excavated at a later time in a more controlled environment. Forty “block lifts” were removed and about ten have been excavated.
Previous x-rays of the block lift that contained the textiles of Lt. Dixon had shown a metallic object imbedded in it. During the process of excavating a very fragile textile layer, Hunley scientific staff discovered that the object was actually two pieces of gold jewelry.
Chairman of the Friends of the Hunley Warren Lasch said of the unique find, “The Hunley continues to present us with exciting and unexpected treasures from the past. This discovery will no doubt prove to be the beginning of another chapter in the amazing story that is the Hunley.”
The ring is made of gold and has nine diamonds, with the center diamond alone being approximately half a carat. Maria Jacobsen, Senior Archaeologist on the Hunley project, said, “the ring is ornate, and both sides of the ring are decorated in filigree.”
The broach is also made of gold and holds 37 diamonds, making up approximately 2 carats. The gold on both pieces of jewelry is high quality, at either 18- or 24-carat.
There is no inscription or maker’s mark and it is still unknown if the pieces are male or female jewelry. Shelly Foote, a jewelry expert with the Smithsonian Institution, will be conducting research on the historical background of these precious artifacts, based on their design and composition.
It is too early to speculate on the significance of these artifacts, but it is very possible that Lt. Dixon carried these valuable pieces with him at all times for safe-keeping. Though much research still needs to be completed, there are many possible scenarios as to why Lt. Dixon had this jewelry and brought it onboard the Hunley. Dixon, who also carried the now famous gold coin with him at all times, may have had these items with him as mementos or good luck charms.
The H. L. Hunley was located in 1995 by Clive Cussler’s National Underwater Agency (NUMA), a 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit organization. The hand-cranked submarine was raised in 2000.
Hours of operation for the tours along with the gift shop are from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p. m. on Saturdays and from noon to 5:00 p. m. on Sundays. All proceeds go to support the Hunley conservation and excavation project. To purchase tickets call toll free 1-877-4HUNLEY (1-877-448-6539) or log onto the Internet at www.etix.com.
To learn more about the Hunley, visit www.hunley.org.