J.Grahl Design (Shipwreck Jewelry)

Our Cross to Bare…
(sorry, couldn’t resist)
This is actually another Atocha out-take. Given all the research I had tasked myself with to accurately portray the Atocha event and the feel of the era’s art, Crosses had to come up.
There ere several recovered off the wreck, some nice, most not (condition and design).
This is not a shipwreck piece, it is one designed to be consistent with the era, have a beauty all it’s own, and, be a reminder of the effects of the clash of cultures.
It was an inescapable Icon… Catholicism was anchored , so to speak, with a representation of suffering. The Church, in the 15th & 16th century, walked side by side with warriors of the Spanish Crown. Part of the legacy of the conversion of the Americas was the disconnect, extreme poverty and extreme wealth. The followers impoverished, the leaders wealthy.
This cross, one of two we’ve fabricated, is in 18K yellow gold, gem set with sapphires, rubies , emeralds, diamonds and pearls. These are the “Precious” stones, each iconic in their own way, this gem group defines itself as “Precious”, all other gems being "semi-precious. A hierarchy that exists still today.
The intent of the design is to be eye pleasing, not to dredge up all the sins of the past (metaphorically speaking).
I find it useful, however, to add clarity to an object, creating a reminder that one can embrace and honor one’s spirituality… but beware of imposing it.
Enjoy, and think a bit…


Hi Jim,
The picture of the cross prompted me to write about my historical cross making.
In the Irish National museum Dublin, is a a salter with a bronze image of Christ thereon, and i was asked to replicate this with my production techniques. Some of you older members may know altho I do individual comissions I work the other way round to yourself, mainly production runs to my own designs or to order. I find for wrought work, the normal jewellers workshop and or bench is too limiting for me. Much as I appreciate the traditional jewellers work, I dont use stones, nor do casting, all my work is wrought, i assemble work cold or braze up or tig weld depending on the metal.
So to that end i provided all the info and drawings to my die maker and in due course recieved the tooling.
My client was happy with it and it met our joint needs. However, it missed something, and that was the human touch!
I found with our vastly superior techniques and knowhow I failed to capture this essential quality. Ie, it was too perfect!!.
Hind sight is the perfect science.
However, this isnt always the case, currently ive comissioned 2 designs for my own exhibitions , feeling Im now good enough to interpret the work of the master sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen, his Night and Day reliefs in silver.
How long does it take to be good enough for example to interpret Chopin’s revolutionary study?
Or a Brahms piano concherto?So exciting times ahead.
I cant match your 50 yrs plus but am near it! some 48 yrs with hammers, !
what has been a blessing was, my parents were fine art collectors in Europe in the 1930’s, I had an aviation engineering degree , then changed direction into ethical sales and marketing. After too many yrs at that, finally chose what my heart and head was telling me, viz to design ,make and market my ideas.
Initally, to replicate the enamelling on the Faberge easter eggs, which amazed me as a child.
Its been a fantastic journey , achieving every thing I wanted technically, and artistically?
My work like yours, has to speakfor itself. Strangely, I came to this conclusion too .
If you can mail me off list with your snail mail address ill put something in the post for you.
Best wishes from Ted.
in County

Just to add another piece to the shipwreck series, This is a hand fabricated, 18K Yellow gold and platinum pendant, Pave’ set with diamonds.
The coin is an Eight Reales, circa 1600. The flattened areas are not from wear, each of these coins were hand struck, accuracy wasn’t the criteria, only the weight, mint marks (part of how we date the coins) and the shield (obverses) or Crusader’s Cross, (reverse). These are also called “Cobb” coins. These areas showed the Hapsburg families’ holdings and alignments across Europe (changing very often),You’ll notice the angular edges on the back view. These are cut marks , called Cobbing. After each coin was stamped, they would be trimmed to weight by cutting off the edges until the weight was 1 oz.
These were only currency to be used in the New World, Once transported back to Spain, they would be remelted and re-struck as continental Spanish currency, or re-purposed for another precious metal application.

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Here is another on the Atocha series, a bottom worn 1/2 Reales, sometimes called a “Frag”. these were exposed to surface wear fron the shifting sand bottom over 350+ years from the 1622 sinking., This is better than most, showing signs of the original stamping. It’s encased in a hand fabricated “Bar Pin”, 18K yellow, a few diamonds and emeralds we had cabbed from emerald crystals found on the wreck.
While there were some extremely fine Muzo crystals and some jewelry with remarkable emeralds , there were also a large number of Chavore small pieces of rough around the wreck.
These are most likely not from the wreck, but seeded by an emerald dealer in Key west with the intention of drawing attention to his own material. It took a while for Mel Fisher’s team to figure this one out and disavow their Atocha provenance .


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Nice work! I absolutely love shipwreck artifacts. . . and the Atocha has got to be the top of that list.

Yea… I fiddle with a couple others + want to get involved with the new find in Colombia.
The Atocha is special to me because of the family involvement as well as the great people I worked with in the Keys.

That’s fascinating! I’d love to hear more about your involvement with the Atocha. It had been my dream as a kid to work on that wreck and back in the mid-90s, Mel Fisher offered me a job on it. As I was only 16 at the time, I doubt he was serious and there was no way my parents would let me move to FL for the summer anyway, but it certainly made my head swim.

To this day, I’ve worn a 2 reale Atocha coin around my neck every day of my life since I was 12 (26 years ago). In fact, even my jewelry is imbued with elements from the Atocha. Since my work is inspired by sunken treasure, this past year, I decided to begin crafting it with the real thing. I use a custom 18K alloy that I make myself, but have sourced the silver and copper for it from the Atocha to create something I call 18K Treasure Gold meaning that each piece is now imbued with 25% actual 400 yr old, sitting on the bottom of the Caribbean, sunken treasure. I carried that thought process through my Marianas Collection and since the collection is inspired by the deep-sea and bioluminescence and such, the silver for it now comes from the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa which sank in 15,500ft of water (a half mile deeper than the Titanic) to make what I call Sterling Fathoms Silver. Seems like a good fit to have something named the “Marianas Collection” to be made from silver recovered from the Abyssal Plain.

I’m unfamiliar with the new find in Columbia, but will now have to start looking into this development :slight_smile:
Have a great day!

Hi Erich,
Sorry for the delay in responding, Christmas crunch is in full bloom over here.
That’s cool that you tried to get on with Mel. When I was down there they were hiring anybody that would get wet, bikers from Detroit, steel workers, and whoever walked in the door. You didn’t need to know how to swim, just inflate a BC. That work was pretty tough, the water clarity was rarely good, & when they blew through the stern down-tubes, it could take hours for everything to settle. Plus the current would drag and fill sand into previously cleared areas in a matter of days. Each day was new, and the weather patterns had many days just unworkable.
I really like your approach to using the Treasure aspect in a contemporary form. You tell a great story and give form and life to materials that would otherwise be sitting in a vault, great job.
Thanks, Jim

This piece, cast and hand engraved, is holding an Eight Reales, circa 1610, from the Potosi Mint (Bolivia), You can make out the Castles and Lions, representing Lyon and Castile in Spain.
These and the cross’s shape and each and every stamping represent a holding or allegiance within the Spanish Kingdom. Many of these marks would change yearly as the Hapsburg family associations in Europe changed. The Hapsburgs were the financiers of Spain’s expansion and war efforts.
The design of the frame is based on at the Spanish sailors interpretation of a Dolphin.
To these sailors who were petrified of the water and had very little understanding of the denizens of the deep, dolphins, sharks ,manatee all had meanings far beyond just fish or animals, they were things to be feared.
This frame design was used to form the lifting rings cast into their bronze cannons.
In this case, 18 K yellow gold and diamonds.
You’ll see a number of variations of this form in future posts.
My intent with this project was to create some form of a historical link between the coin and the framework.


Thanks again Jim for the compliment. I very much appreciate it!

No worries on any delays in replies. Now that the digest is no longer, I’m lucky to remember to check the forum more than once a week and with the Christmas crunch at play, I think it’s a marvel anyone posts anything at all this time of year :wink:

Your work is absolutely exquisite. Honestly, if someone came to me requesting some of the pieces you’ve shown on the gallery here, I think there’s probably only one other person that I could direct them to that could pull it off so incredibly well! Some of the pieces almost seem like they need an army of craftsmen to complete. Utterly fantastic work. . . . it’s a level that I dearly hope to achieve one day.

On a side note, I love the design around the coin you just posted. I searched around for it, but couldn’t find it so I’m afraid I can’t give the proper reference. However, I recall seeing a gold chain with that stylized dolphin(?) on it before that had been found on a wreck or as a beach find. . . I can’t exactly remember as it has been 20 years since I read about it, but I love the way you incorporated that element into the frame for the coin. Beautiful work!

Thanks for the great pictures and insight to the Atocha recovery. Good luck with the “Crunch”!

Hi Erich,
here is another cut on the “Dolphin” , Not Atocha relics as such,except for the emerald, which were cut from emerald rough found at the site, But the provenance on the small Chavore crystals is really sketchy… There was an emerald dealer, in the eighties, that would “Salt” the site with rough. He would then claim to have emeralds off the Atocha, with the caveat that they were found before the certification program was in place… We used some anyway but never claimed authenticity. I just found his story as interesting as all the rest floating (sic) around the Keys.
Again, these are a play on the design theme used on the lifting rings on the bronze cannon of the period.18K yellow gold, emerald and diamond.

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Beautiful design! I’ve always been a big fan of the way emeralds and rich, yellow gold goes together. That’s a very stunning look!

Sad to hear that about the emeralds on the site though. Seems like there’s always someone that has to come in and ruin things, doesn’t it?

Thanks for sharing!

I’m loving the Atocha related jewelry here. It brings back a lot of memories. Back in the 60’s my parents were involved with the Florida treasure hunting efforts of Kip Wagner, who subleased the site to Mel Fisher and gave him his start on the Spanish treasure fleet. Unfortunately all they ended up with was a cannon ball from the Nieves, one of the other ships in the fleet. Too little, too early— story of their lives.

Janet Kofoed

Hi Janet,
I just missed meeting Kip, far before the Fisher escapades, His book is great, still a primary reference piece in the treasure world.
The thing about working with (not for) Mel, was he was always underfunded, searching for money and starting to look like a side show act. All the notoriety was not always for the best. In the end though, his determination paid of, in a sense. He and Deo died with wealth of sorts, but years of the Key West lifestyle (a lot of alcohol ) took their toll, as it did with the crew. The investors were paid with artifacts, that they had to in turn sell or broker off to see a monetary return,
When the payouts happened, the market flooded, so rather than get top dollar, many pieces were sold for little more than metal weight Plus a kick from the certs.
More stories and pieces to come,
Thanks for sharing,

Would that be the book “Pieces of Eight”? That was my first real book on treasure hunting. I found it in our school library in 8th grade. I already had a huge fascination with diving and sunken treasure, but that book captivated me instantly. So much so that I actually “lost” the book and ended up having to buy it from the library. Not one of my proud moments, but according to the card at the time, no one had read it in 15+ years so I felt that it was worth the $25 fee/fine for the loss. All these years later, it is one of the prized books in my library.

That’s right. That was the early days of Florida treasure hunting, when they first realized what was under the water off shore. As much as I walked those beaches I never found anything but shells, but just knowing it was under there was very exciting.

Janet Kofoed

My compliments to the chef. Absolutely stunning I feel the 18k looks proper
with the coins. They belong together. I recall nearby in oak ridge ten,
when alot of the treasure from the atocha. Was on display and much was for
sale. I recall a bundle or cluster of coins and imagining who may have
touched those since their creation

Shipwrecks again…
(and there is so much more…)
Here is another rendition of a “Dolphin” again in 18K yellow gold, this time with pearls and a twist…
This coin is from another Wreck site we’ve been involved with that is every bit as exciting, but slightly less known.
It’s the 1715 “Plate Fleet” , a group of 11 ships, sunk within sight of each other and the shoreline near Fort Pierce Florida.
This was popularized by Kip Wagner in the early 1950’s, The sight was known, but not specifically located. Every large storm that brushed the beaches in the area would expose gold and silver coins, and just as quickly, the clearing winds would come and cover all up again.
Beachcombers still find artifacts today, but the dive sites are in control of the Fisher family and there are temporary leases periodically to work the, now identified, wreck locations.
There were millions of dollars spread between the eleven boats and there are still significant finds discovered today.
This coin, a “Frag” (Divers slang for a fragment), has the distinctive crusader’s cross identifying it as a Mexico mint coin, circa 1714 / 1715.
More to come.

Very stunning!

Another from the world of wrecks,
This, again, from the Atocha,
A simple hand fabricated 18K yellow gold bezel, Hand engraved. Please note the “Dolphin theme” again. They are actually true replicas off the cannon recovered. Even though the design was derivative anyway, who knows how many interpretations were cooked up by the men of the sea and the artist trying to give face to a description of a (most likely) illiterate slave or deckhand.
This coin, an Eight Reales, circa 1610 from the reign of Phillip the third. A B+ grade coin with a legible shield.