Treasure hunter family finds $300,000 worth of 300-year-old Spanish gold off Florida coast

Published in Mail Online on September 3, 2013. Updated September 04, 2013. Article written by Lydia Warren.

  • The Schmitt family found three pounds of gold chains, five gold coins and a gold ring 150 yards off coast of Fort Pierce
  • The loot is believed to be from 1715, when a fleet of Spanish ships were hit by a hurricane off Florida
  • Florida gets 20% of the gold and the family will share the rest with the crew

Discovery: Hillary, Rick and Eric Schmitt hold up one of the gold chains they found during a dive this weekend.

A family has discovered $300,000-worth of 300-year-old Spanish gold chains and coins during a sea scavenge off the Florida coast.

The Schmitt family and a diver, Dale Zeak, found three pounds of thin gold chains, five gold coins and a gold ring just 15 feet below the surface 150 yards off the coast of Fort Pierce this weekend.

The family runs a company named Booty Salvage but this is the biggest loot they've ever found.

(Scroll down for video)


Striking gold: Hillary, 20, shows off the gold chains found by her treasure hunter family at the weekend.


'This is like the end of a dream,' owner Rick Schmitt told the Orlando Sentinel.

They were with diver Dale Zeak when he spotted the first piece of the gold.

'As I was reaching to grab, I found another one six inches away,' Zeak told WKMG. 'Then I saw three piles of gold chains.'

Schmitt, who was out on the family's boat, the AARRRR Booty, with his grown children Hillary and Eric, then jumped in for a look. 

'The whole bottom was covered in gold,' said Schmitt, 65. 'Eight gold chains and all of these gold coins, they were laying all over the bottom. It was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen.'


Bounty: An image shows the gold chains and three of the coins they found. They also found a gold ring.


Precious: The gold comes from a shipwreck in 1715, when a fleet of Spanish ships were hit by a storm.


Florida will get 20 per cent of the gold and it will be displayed in museums. The rest will then be evenly split between the crew and the company.

But Schmitt said he's happy with whatever they earn from the stash.

'I'm happy as hell to find it,' he said. 'I don't care if I got one per cent of it. Finding it is 90 per cent of it for me.'

The haul is believed to have been lost at the bottom of the ocean after a fleet of Spanish ships carrying the treasure was struck by a strong hurricane on July 30, 1715.

More than 1,000 people died in the storm and 11 of the 12 ships were wrecked, spilling piles of gold and silver across the sea floor, the Sentinel reported.


Discovery: Rick Schmitt, left, made the discovery with a diver off the coast of Fort Pierce this weekend.


Jewels: His daughter and friends show off the loot, which was found just 15 feet below the surface.


Family business: They go on regular diving trips with their boat, AARRR Booty, pictured.


Some of the artifacts were found in the years after the storm, but it is believed that there could still be millions of dollars worth of treasure beneath the sea's surface.

The haul was valued by Brent Brisben, the co-founder of 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels LLC which owns the rights to dive on the wreckage site.

'To be the first person to touch an artifact in 300 years is indescribable,' Brisben said.

Rick Schmitt has been diving for treasure since he was a teenager in the 1960s. He retired in 1999 and started the family's diving salvage business.

Another notable find was by his son Eric in 2002; he found a 300-year-old Mexican silver platter near Sebastian that was worth around $25,000.