Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Titanic interest in centenary sale

A bracelet from the Titanic which was recovered from the ocean floor during an expedition to the site of the tragedy (AP)

The auction of more than 5,000 Titanic artefacts a century after the luxury liner's sinking has stirred hundreds of interested calls, with some offering to add to the dazzling trove already plucked from the ocean floor.

Auctioneer Arlan Ettinger said his New York auction house, Guernsey's Auctioneers & Brokers, has heard from some descendants of the more than 700 survivors, including one offering papers found on the floating body of a passenger.

The papers will not be included, but something perhaps more poignant will: a child's bracelet with the name Amy spelled out in diamonds. Only two Amys were listed among 2,228 passengers, of whom more than 1,500 died.

"It's very personal and very touching to see that," Mr Ettinger said.

The auction on April 1 will feature clothing, fine china, gold coins, silverware and "The Big Piece" - a 17-ton section of the Titanic's hull - pulled from the pitch-black depths two and a half miles beneath the North Atlantic. It will be sold in one lot and the winning bid will be announced on April 11. It was appraised in 2007 at 189 million dollars (£120m).

Mr Ettinger said Guernsey's had had its share of high-profile auctions - including treasures from the estates of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Diana, Princess of Wales, and president John F Kennedy - but the collection from the world's most famous shipwreck tops them all.

The Titanic sank on April 15 1912 after hitting an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

"Where on this planet can you go and say the word 'Titanic' and not get some reaction?" Mr Ettinger said.

An international team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985, about 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada. The auction will be the first of Titanic artefacts collected from its final resting place, although items gathered from the ocean surface and from survivors have been sold in the past.

By order of a US maritime judge who has overseen the case for years, the items cannot be sold individually and they must go to a buyer who agrees to properly maintain the collection and make it available for occasional public viewing. The sale is also subject to court approval.

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