A tantalizing treasure

by Mary Caperton Morton
Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mesa Verde, the ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings.Credit: ©Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Some of Fenn's treasure includes a bracelet made of beads collected from Mesa Verde, the ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings, where this necklace was also found. Credit: National Park Service.

The contents of Forrest Fenn’s chest are not completely known, but Fenn has listed enough of the treasure to make the hunt truly tantalizing: 20 troy pounds of gold coins, gold nuggets the size of a man’s fist, pre-Columbian Incan and Mayan animal figures, a 17th-century Spanish gold-and-emerald ring, a bracelet with more than 250 rubies, diamonds and Ceylon sapphires, and two hand-carved Chinese jade masks.

The Fenn treasure has been valued between $1 million and $2 million and the chest itself — a 12th-century Roman lockbox made of sculpted bronze — has been said to be worth about $35,000. But perhaps the most valuable trinket in the chest is a modest turquoise and silver bracelet that Fenn has offered to buy back from whomever finds the treasure.

In 1888, on the day the rancher-turned-archaeologist Richard Wetherill discovered Mesa Verde — the stunning cliff dwelling complex in southwest Colorado — he picked up 22 small turquoise beads. He later had the beads fashioned into a bracelet by a Navajo silversmith and wore it for many years before selling it to the entrepreneur Fred Harvey. Fenn later won the bracelet in a game of billiards with one of Harvey’s heirs. “The bracelet fits me perfectly and I wore it many times,” Fenn says. “It is special to me, and that’s why I put it in the chest. I wanted some of me to be part of the treasure.”

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