What’s the most valuable piece of cargo that was lost forever, never to be found again? Some argue that it was a World War 2-era Nazi train full of several hundred tons of gold lost in the Czech Republic. While others point to shipwrecks that contained cargo worth several billion dollars in today’s money.
Throughout history, various treasures and expensive trophies taken by the victor after wars or conquests were transported away from their homelands to distant regions. However, valuables were often lost while being transported, either stolen or simply lost to natural disasters or human error.
Slash Gear discusses the most popular ones in this article, though keep in mind that the list isn’t exhaustive. This is because it’s hard to ascertain the true value of some of these lost treasures, while others were never recorded in history.
The Amber Room
The iconic Amber Room was originally built by German architects back in the early 1700s in Charlottenburg Palace, where the first Prussian King, Frederick I, lived. Sky History reports, this was the first time someone had attempted to use Amber for interior decoration. The architects managed to build and finish it by 1716, and it was placed in Berlin City Palace. The Russian Tsar of the time, Peter the Great, visited the room and loved it, so the Prussian King Frederick William I gave it to the Tsar as a gift.
The room was then moved to St. Petersburg where it stayed until 1755 when the Tsar’s daughter Elizabeth had its location changed to Catherine Palace. Since then, more architects worked on the room to expand it, and by 1770, it contained 6 tons of amber and covered an area of 590 square feet.
The room stayed in the Catherine Palace up until World War 2 when Hitler wanted the room to be taken back to Germany. He believed it was German property as it was originally built by German architects. The Nazis packed up the walls and panels in crates after capturing the room and had it shipped to Königsberg in Germany. The room was then reconstructed in the castle with the same name and remained there until 1944. Hitler had reportedly ordered the room to be moved, afraid that it would be destroyed by Allied forces. Subsequent bombings of the castle in 1944 destroyed most of the castle with historians unsure whether the room was taken out of the castle in time or if it was destroyed by the bombings.
The Soviet Republic reconstructed the room with the help of German experts. It cost $11 million and was completed in 2003 (pictured above). However, it’s not as valuable or expertly crafted as the original room, which would be worth an estimated $140 million – $289 million today.
King John’s Lost Treasure
The infamous King John of England was known as one of the greediest monarchs in the kingdom’s history. Born in the late 12th century, he was known for imposing high taxes, part of what made him the villain of Robin Hood stories.
Without going into too much detail, the king’s high taxes and exorbitant fines, annexing the barons’ lands under his rule and his failed military campaigns made him infamous and hated. After losing his lands to the French King in the early 12th century, John was forced to return to Lynn, a city where he still had some power.
According to the British Library, the King’s treasure was lost shortly after signing the Magna Carta, which limited the ruler’s power in England subjecting it to the rule of law. After signing it, he immediately sought to get it annulled by the Pope, which led to the barons rioting against him, forcing him to flee Lynn and move to Lincolnshire. He reportedly had a large cache of valuables including the Crown Jewels that were traveling with him in a baggage train. The treasure was lost while crossing a bay in the eastern part of England called the Wash. The King made it out safely, but the treasure was lost to the tides and was never found after that.
It contained the sword of Tristram (a knight from the Arthurian legend), a golden wand with a dove, crown jewels, gold and silver cutlery, and more, with an estimated worth of $70 million.
Jewels of Lima
This is a big one. With an estimated value of around $1 billion, this treasure was stolen from Lima and was lost around Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
Forbes reports that, back in 1820, when Lima was threatened by Jose de San Martin, an Argentine General, the Spanish viceroy decided to evacuate all the valuables until after the war against Peru. All of the expensive items were taken aboard the Mary Dear, a ship captained by William Thompson. The British captain sought to run away with the loot and took everything to Cocos Island in modern-day Costa Rica. However, he was chased by a Spanish warship and his crew was all caught and imprisoned. The captain agreed to help look for the treasure but escaped once they got to Cocos Island.
Expeditions to the island in the years afterward turned up with nothing.
The rumored treasure contained the following items: Altar trimmings of gold cloth with canopies, monstrances, chalices all coated with gemstones of up to 1,244 pieces. 2 gold relic containers weighing 120 pounds with 624 topaz, carnelians, emeralds, and 12 diamonds. 3 relic containers of cast metal weighing 160 pounds with 860 rubies, 19 diamonds, and other gemstones. 4,000 doubloons of Spanish Marked 8, 124 swords, 5,000 crowns of Mexican Gold, 64 daggers, 120 shoulder belts, and 28 round shields. 8 caskets of cedar wood and silver with 3,840 cut stones, rings offering plates, and 4,265 uncut stones. 22 candelabra in gold and silver weighing 250 pounds and 164 rubies. One 7-foot Solid Gold Statue of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus. Weighing 780 pounds, rolled on her gold chasuble adorned with 1,684 jewels including 4-inch emeralds, 6-inch topazes, and 7 crosses made of diamonds.
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Source: Slash Gear