Gold and ruby salamander pendant

Contributed by Ulster Museum

Gold and ruby salamander pendant

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This jewelled pendant was recovered from the wreck site of the galleass Girona, which sank off the north Antrim coast in 1588. The pendant reflects the grandeur and outreach of the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century, with the gold from its conquests in the New World and the rubies, which could have been imported from either Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Ceylon or Afghanistan. The salamander is based on a real Mexican lizard but it is also a creature of mythology with an ability to survive and extinguish fire, which made it an appropriate talisman to wear on board a wooden fighting ship. Sailors everywhere often wear a good luck charm. This jewel, recovered from an underwater wreck, has universal appeal and emphasises the importance of the sea as a connecting link between peoples and places.

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