The History behind the Treasure
I have long been fascinated with treasure hunts and shows like the Amazing Race and Survivor. As a young man I played and won a number of treasure hunts and radio contests and always dreamed of creating a real treasure hunt that anyone could play with a prize of a million dollars. However, the magnitude of the expense and the time involved in launching a project like this kept me from attempting to try it.
Then, in 2004, something happened that would change my mind. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time and she was given the difficult choice that no expecting mother wants to hear. “You have to choose between treating the cancer and saving your life or, not treating the cancer to save your baby’s life”. She chose her baby’s life over her own and passed away just two days after giving birth to her daughter. This act of sacrifice inspired me to make the commitment and dedicate 100% of the net proceeds for the treasure hunt book, The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt: Quest for the Golden Eagle, to raising funds for the early detection, prevention and assistance for those diagnosed with breast cancer.
The project combined my biggest passions, treasure hunting and raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research. I mortgaged my house, used my savings, borrowed money and sought sponsors to fund and assist in the massive financial investment required for the books, other prizes, the website, and the biggest cost – “The Treasure”.
After two years and a lot of hard work, my dream of creating The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt: Quest for the Golden Eagle was taking shape. I just needed the greatest treasure imaginable for the center piece. That’s when the mission to design and create the largest gold sculpture of its kind began. An amazing eighteen pound, solid gold and diamond encrusted eagle complete with a 400 year old treasure.
From Idea to Reality
I didn’t know it at the time but commissioning a large statue of solid gold would take me on a four year long journey. The path included thousands of hours of labor, and countless people along the way who said that it could not be done. Time after time, the most experienced craftsmen claimed that combining the huge amounts of white and yellow gold in a single precision sculpture without the use of welding torches, lasers or materials other than gold, would be impossible. It was just too large and complex. I was determined to find someone who believed in the project as much as I did. That’s when I found Kevin Peters.
Kevin is a renowned artist who has been commissioned by people like: the Saudi Royal Family, the Royal Family of the Netherlands, Amad Rashad, Walt Disney Inc., DreamWorks, Microsoft, and many more to do intricate wildlife sculptures. Kevin Peters took the challenge, believing in his heart that it could be done and that he could create a world class masterpiece.
The Making of the Maltese Eagle
It took more than six months for Kevin to complete the design and initial mockup. The plan for this statue had to take into account the weight of the gold, the support structure of the wings, how to incorporate the 14-karat gold yellow beak onto an 18-karat white gold head, and do so within international guidelines to be classified as ‘solid gold’. All this had to be done with the use of classic goldsmithing techniques. Once the original mock up was done, the Maltese Eagle had to be put through a detailed and meticulous ten step process to get the finest details of the eagle into place.
The Maltese Eagle is the largest gold sculpture of its kind ever created.
There was a reason why so many craftsmen said that it was impossible to do and shied away from working on a piece of this size. First they needed to have the equipment, and they needed to be very skilled and sure of what they are doing. Any errors or miscasts could cost an entire year of work. I persisted in my quest and a company was found to make the casts. Silver was poured into the first of only two casting molds to ensure the process would work. It did not. The error that created the miscast was found and corrected. Finally, gold was poured into the last cast, and the Maltese Eagle was born.
Yet, we still needed someone to assemble, pave the diamond head with more than 700 diamonds and create the final finished product. We scoured the globe once more in search of the best goldsmith to finish the task. After consulting with 25 goldsmiths on who we should get to finish the piece, a consensus was formed. There was only one man who could accomplish the task to the exact standards that we had set, Lewis Court.
Lewis Court- Goldsmith
Lewis Court apprenticed for a total of twelve years in London under Grant MacDonald and directly under Norman Bassant, the worlds’ most respected goldsmith. Norman is the last supreme master of hand-crafted goldsmithing and passed this knowledge onto Lewis Court – his last apprentice.
Lewis’ body of work includes pieces for the British Royal Family, Prince Charles, the Royal Family of Brunei, including a 12-foot solid silver palm tree for the Princess of Brunei’s wedding, the Royal family of Qatar, a series of antique decorative swords for the Saudi Royal Family, and Sir Elton John, to name just a few.
I approached Mr. Court about the project to see if he would be willing to take on such a complex piece. Lewis was excited to take up the challenge and help in creating this one of a kind masterpiece.
The Atocha Star Emerald: “An Old World Treasure”
The Maltese Eagle displays its strength while protecting the largest cut Atocha Emerald in the world, “The Atocha Star”. The emerald was part of the massive treasure onboard the ship “Atocha”. The Atocha was the largest Spanish treasure galleon in a fleet of 28 bound for Spain which sank along with seven others in a hurricane in September of 1622.
Mel and Deo Fisher searched for the Atocha for 16 years and in 1985 found the mother lode worth more than $400 million US. They discovered “Emerald City” about 100 feet from the “main pile” of the Atocha. Emerald City yielded 13,500-carats of emeralds that were originally mined at Muzo Columbia where the worlds’ best emeralds are found.
The Atocha Star emerald was chosen by Mel Fisher specifically because it was the most beautiful of all of the emeralds found based on its size, brilliant color, and quality. The “Atocha Star” was a gift from Mel to Deo Fisher, his wife, for the sacrifices incurred on their 16 year search for the Atocha.
Generally artifacts of this kind are not altered because of their historical significance. This 25.86-carat 1AA grade, emerald was special. Deo saw something different with this emerald and wanted it to be cut to release its inner magnificence. In 1992 it was cut down to 12.72 carats, making it the largest and most unique Atocha emerald of them all. The gem is even more special because the gem cutter chose to leave one of the smaller facets on the emerald in its natural unpolished state.
Shortly before her death, Deo spoke to Kim and Sean Fisher (Mel Fisher’s son and grandson) about the Atocha Star. Mel Fisher had passed away from cancer and now Deo was passing away from the same disease, ten years later. Sean asked Deo what she thought of providing the Atocha Star to The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt: Quest for the Golden Eagle and Ron Shore to help raise funds for breast cancer research. Her response was almost immediate and the path was cleared for the Atocha Star to be part of this amazing piece of history and now the Maltese Eagle stands guard over it for all time.
The finished statue is breathtaking and took more than 4000 hours to create this one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
The head of the eagle is 18-carat white gold and the beak is 14-carat yellow gold. There are 763 EF and G color diamonds combining for 56-carats which encrust the head. Two 1.1-carat, D and E color, pear-shaped, perfectly matched diamonds are set in white gold pear-shaped bezels to create the eyes. The craftsmanship of the settings is impeccable. The eagle is 18 pounds of solid gold.