Silver "piña" ingot, 4312 grams, marked with fineness IIUCCCLXXX (2380/2400 = 99% fine) and serial n

Currency:USD Category:Coins & Paper Money / Shipwreck Ingots Start Price:13,500.00 USD Estimated At:15,000.00 - 30,000.00 USD
Silver  piña  ingot, 4312 grams, marked with fineness IIUCCCLXXX (2380/2400 = 99% fine) and serial n
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This item SOLD at 2018 May 15 @ 13:10UTC-4 : AST/EDT
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Silver "piña" ingot, 4312 grams, marked with fineness IIUCCCLXXX (2380/2400 = 99% fine) and serial number XIX, from the Atocha (1622). 5" wide at top, 5-1/2" tall, with 2" cylindrical hole in center. Hidden among the hundreds of large, loaf-shaped silver ingots found on the Atocha was this oddly cylindrical piece with similar markings, a very rare ingot known as a "pina" that had an important role in the "patio" refining process in Mexico. The patio process, invented in the mid-1500s by Bartolome de Medina in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico, was a method for separating silver from its ore by amalgamation with mercury (quicksilver). The silver ore came from the mines in large pieces and was placed in huge covered boxes where it was pounded into fragments by immense crushers. The resulting smaller pieces were then sieved and re-crushed in mortars (morteros) as needed. Then the ore passed to mills (tahonas), which consisted of round vats placed on a level with the floor, and the ore was ground into fine dust by means of heavy, oblong granite stones, powered by shaft and wheel. By the gradual addition of water during this process of pulverization, a muddy mass was formed, which at the proper time was thrown onto the cement- or stone-floor of an open-air patio, hence the name. The silver mud was then treated with the addition of quicksilver and a strong brine called "caldo." For several days the mixture was left out and exposed to the heat of the sun and every day was stirred and tramped by animals until the quicksilver and salt were well incorporated into the ore. The resulting substance was called a "torta" (cake of mud); when completely mixed, the mud was carried to a "lavadero" (washing place) and placed in vats to be washed, which left just silver amalgamated with mercury. This amalgam was then placed in bags and the mercury was extracted by heavy pressure. The silver was finally purified by heating in bell-shaped molds that produced the pineapple-shaped cylinders known as "pinas" (pineapples). These ephemeral pinas were then melted down into large silver ingots for the royal mint, but some pinas were sold to creditors or other private individuals instead to be melted later. Three different classes of people shared the profits derived from working the mines: "especuladores" (speculators), who were basically the mine-owners; creditors; and purchasers. In Mexico, the mine-owners were generally rich proprietors, who could afford to lay out considerable capital on speculation without receiving any return for a long time. In Peru, however, these speculators were mostly men of embarrassing circumstances who had to borrow short-term capital at a high rate of interest to start their mining endeavors. In order to stay in business, they had to sell their mine products quickly and at a low rate of return. Generally the mine-owner was forced to receive only one-half of his return in refined silver; the other half consisted of manufactured goods that were always overvalued and frequently of little use to him. The creditor also received payment in the form of pinas, but at a discounted rate of 5/6 of the intrinsic value. The third profiteer, the purchaser, gave money to the miner and creditor in exchange for their pinas. At remote mines especially, the miner typically required money to pay his workmen and to purchase mercury and other necessary materials and therefore had to sell his pinas to purchasers at any price. This ingot is currently one of only two known to exist (the other from the Capitana wreck of 1654 off Ecuador), with granular surface on sloping sides (octagonal in cross-section), the top hammered and marked with three or four large tax seals (quintos), serial number XIX and fineness IIUCCCLXXX (2380/2400 = 99% pure), with possible cartouche (corroded) to indicate the mine as well. From the Atocha, sunk in 1622 west of Key West, Florida, with original Fisher tag and certificate #4193, and pedigreed to our Auction #8 (lot #413).