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Family uncovers historical sunken treasure off Florida coast

Talk about a great find. A family of avid treasure hunters who may or may not have been “born with a little pirate in [their] blood” made an exciting and historically-significant find on a scavenging adventure off the Florida coast.

Members of the Schmitt family, comprised of Rick, Eric, Lisa, Hillary, and Lindsay, share a love of looking for treasure and are the owners of a company called Booty Salvage. Last month, the family set out to explore a site containing a fleet of 11 Spanish ships that were ripped up by a hurricane way back in 1715. TODAY notes on Thursday that 1,000 people died in that incident and treasure seekers can still try out their luck through 1715 Fleet - Queen’s Jewels, the company that currently owns the area’s salvage rights.

On this particular treasure-seeking trip, Eric Schmitt came across a small square gold filigree ornament. The find turned out to be historically significant when experts determined that the ornament fits together with another artifact found 25 years ago to form a pyx, which is used to carry the Eucharist, or consecrated communion host.

Though it’s not known yet just how much the pyx is worth, but Brent Brisben with 1715 Fleet says the find is “priceless, unique, one of a kind.”

“To be able to find a piece that they thought was interesting back then and make it whole now, I mean, it’s amazing,” Eric Schmitt said.

This isn’t the first time the Schmitts have returned to shore with a valuable haul, though; last year, they salvaged 64 feet of gold chains along with gold coins from the same site, worth over $300,000.

From here, the item will be given to South Florida’s U.S. District Court and the state may wind up with possession of as much as 20 percent. 1715 Fleet and the family, meanwhile, will split the rest between them.

“We’ve always felt as though it was the journey, not the destination,” Lisa Schmitt said. “When I add up the days of my life that I am happiest — you know, other than your wedding and your kids being born — I’d say the rest of them are out here on the water.”

1715 Fleet has been the site of several other big finds, such as a 5.5-inch gold pelican statue found in 2010 by Bonnie Schubert and her 87-year-old mother. The statue is missing a wing but was still appraised at a jaw-dropping $885,000.

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