Before La Vie Est Belle’s pearl and leather jewelry was famed along County Road 30A, the shop’s shipwreck coins were altering the course of history.
Owner and local artist Wendy Mignot has been crafting pearl and leather jewelry since 1994, but did not start pairing the pieces with shipwreck and ancient coins until 2008, giving customers a beautiful opportunity to wear history.
The coins are sourced from shipwrecks and from ancient times, and are all authentic and guaranteed.
La Vie Est Belle manager Aimee Alderson says some of her favorite salvaged coins come from the ship El Cazador, which went down in the Gulf of Mexico in 1784.
The ship was commissioned by Monarch Philip III of Spain and was traveling from Vera Cruz, Mexico, to the Louisiana Territory to stabilize the Spanish monetary system there.
Laden with 450,000 pesos of silver reales, the ship sank for unknown reasons.
Spain lost its hold on the Louisiana territory, and the land was sold to France’s Napoleon. France was also unable to financially support the colony.
“For that reason, France sold the Louisiana territory to the United States,” said Alderson of our 1803 acquisition. Another of the treasure troves from which La Vie Est Belle sources its coins is the 1681 shipwreck of Santa Maria de la Consolacion, also a Spanish galleon.
Captained by a man named Sharpe, the ship was pursued by pirates, and eventually ran aground on a reef on Isla de la Muerto near Guayaquil, Ecuador.
To thwart the pirates’ efforts, Sharpe evacuated his crew and set the ship aflame. Rumor has it the island where the ship ran aground is called “The Island of the Dead” because the pirates, in anger, killed the crew members.
Now coins from the berths of the two ships have been given new life by Wendy, who sets them in golden bezels.