The “Titanic Artifact Exhibition” opened in April, and a companion collection, “Jewels of Titanic,” opened to the public last Friday.
Until Jan. 6, Atlanta residents can view and read about 15 of the most valuable jewelry items recovered from the wreck site of the Titanic, which includes diamonds, sapphires, pearls and gold.
The first dive to recover objects from the Atlantic Ocean floor was in 1987, when a Gladstone bag was recovered. The leather bag was one of several which the pursers’ office used to store first-class passengers’ valuables.
“It turns out the chemicals used to tan the leather repelled microorganisms that would otherwise eat away paper and other things,” said exhibition Creative Director Mark Lach. “Three fourths of the jewelry on the display today was in that single bag.”
He said the jewelry was buried underneath love letters, bank notes, documents and clothing, and some of it has been in storage over the years and displayed in different exhibitions.
Out of the 15 pieces of jewelry, Lach said they can speculate about a couple of them, one of which is a golden locket.
“We don’t know who things belong to but can speculate the locket with the initials “VC” belonged to Virginia Clarke,” he said.
One pocket watch on display was recovered separately in a 1993 dive, and it is initialed “TWSB.”
“It belongs to Thomas William Solomon Brown, whose daughter we reached out to,” said Katherine Seymour, Premier Exhibitions Inc.’s vice president of public relations.
“She was on the Titanic. She kept (it) beside her bed until she died, and had asked for it to be returned to the exhibit so it can be on display.”
In 2000, Lach actually traveled to the wreck site, taking a total of 13 hours.
“It was a two-hour and 15-minute journey to the bottom of the ocean. … We spent eight hours at the bottom. … I took the same amount of time going back up,” he said. “It was very exciting, personally connecting to the human side of the story.”
He said he found a telephone box, a mug from third class and a wrench he said must have been part of the ship’s stow of tools.
“Overall, we want people to sort of appreciate and understand that night, and the individuals on board,” Seymour said. “What’s so unique about jewelry is, for the first time, you get that personal effect, that personal touch. It makes you stop and wonder not only who these individuals were, but you can almost put yourself there.”