By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
Pala International’s Carl Larson was pleasantly surprised last Thursday when AGTA Board President Kimberly Collins FaceTimed him; she rang to let him know that a 2023 Spectrum entry had won 2nd Place in Men’s Wear. The winning piece? “Captain Mayer’s Revenge” skull coin pendant necklace in 18k gold.
Coin jewels certainly have their own collectability, but this coin was extra special; it was a hand-struck cob, eight reales—dubbed a piece of eight—that was minted in silver in Peru, weighed 23.6 grams, and was salvaged from a shipwreck circa 1590 off the Yucatan Peninsula.
“I bought this in Tucson from Big Blue Wreck Salvage, Inc., in 2014 or 2015,” says Larson. “I wanted this piece over some of the more famous shipwreck coins they had because of the features and colors of this. I fell in love with it the way people fall in love with gemstones. Pieces of eight are so big and cool.”
The coin has a Hapsburg coat of arms to denote the reign of Spanish King Philip II. There is a mint mark and assayer mark “D” visible on the right side of the shield, with the denomination “8” visible on the left side of the shield. A Greek cross with lions of León and castles of Castile heraldry, the home regions of Queen Isabella of Spain, are also in the quadrants of the cross, which symbolized the close bond of church and state, according to the certificate of authenticity from Big Blue.
It was the first coin Larson had ever purchased—and the first piece of jewelry he made for his newly debuted jewelry firm, Antihero. Most of the jewel is made in white gold, though the rim encasing the coin is in yellow gold, and the piece’s name is a nod to Larson’s goldsmith.
Larson was inspired to make the pirate-y piece after seeing a coin jewel from a friend of his dad. Initially on the fence about buying the coin, Larson is now glad he did.
“A year after I bought it, my brother went back to buy one, and the prices had gone up,” he recollects.
Given the authenticity of the centerpiece, Larson gave it a pirate vibe with crossbones set with some uncalibrated red Spinel he’d had in inventory for a while.
“They were mixed sizes with some native cuts, and I decided to leave them like that so it would look more like pirate jewelry,” he said.
The Diamonds, however, are calibrated, making the finished piece a modern take on a historical inspiration. It is now the flagship piece in his new jewelry brand, which will focus on one-of-a-kinds.
Admirers should know that Larson might be willing to part with it. “It depends on who is interested,” he says. “I’m not against selling it.”
See him—and the piece—in Tucson.
For now, he’ll just enjoy the win. “It’s the first time our family has won a Spectrum Award,” he says.
Click here to see the press release of all winners.
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