Northern Ireland museums outbid in fight to buy 5,500 treasures raised from Titanic
A group of Northern Ireland museums may be set to lose out in a transatlantic battle over the ownership of Titanic treasures worth more than £15m - with wealthy American bidders joining the race.
British museums and US hedge funds are fighting over the 5,500-strong collection, which is being auctioned in Jacksonville, Florida, and includes 15 rings, necklaces and pins dredged from the ocean floor.
It also comprises a golden nugget necklace gifted to 'the Unsinkable Molly Brown'.
However it now looks like Belfast will miss out on the items as the rival American bidders have launched a rival bid of £15m, over £200k more than the Belfast-led consortium.
Titanic Belfast, the Titanic Foundation, National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) and the National Maritime Museum teamed up to launch a multi-million pound Titanic Artefacts Collection campaign in July.
Together, they hope to repatriate the objects to Belfast, home of the Titanic.
Kathryn Thompson from NMNI told the BBC that the battle for the items was far from over.
"When we first put in a bid for the artefacts, we were the highest bidder," she said.
"One of the rival bids has now upped their value, which has topped where we're at, and we're going to consider our position over the next number of weeks along with our consortium partners."
"We believe that in public ownership we can protect them in the long term."
Mrs Thompson said that the group would look into increasing their bid for the artefacts.
The Northern Irish group are backed by James Cameron, who directed the most famous film about the disaster, which was released back in 1997.
The rare collection has become available after a US company that currently owns the items, Premier Exhibitions, filed for bankruptcy in America in 2016.
The haul, which a judge ruled must be sold whole, also comprises a blue sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds, that bears a strong likeness to Princess Diana's wedding ring, which was later given to Kate Middleton by Prince William.
Other items, recovered during seven excavations of the wreck between 1987 and 2004, offer a reminder of some of the 1,500 lives that were lost when Titanic sank in 1912, according to The Times.
The artefacts were raised from the ocean by RMS Titanic Inc, a privately owned company that gained exclusive rights to salvage it.
They include a pocket watch which was owned by South African hotel boss Thomas William Solomon Brown, who died after putting his wife and daughter on a lifeboat.
Another surviving relic is a golden necklace owned by Margaret Brown, a socialite dubbed 'the Unsinkable Molly Brown'. It was a gift from her mine owner husband, JJ Brown.
Belfast Telegraph Digital