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TOPIC: Coins from shipwrecks become wearable treasures

Coins from shipwrecks become wearable treasures 8 years 2 months ago #7175

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Coins from shipwrecks become wearable treasures at La Vie Est Belle
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Molly Mosher

The Walton Sun

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.

“They’re incorporated into the pearl and leather jewelry. It’s a marriage made in heaven: The pearls and coins came from the sea,” said Alderson.

Wendy and Jean Noel moved to Seaside ten years ago with their two children after sailing through the Caribbean for years. She sold her jewelry during the voyage, but as fate would have it — by way of another shipwreck — the Mignots landed in Seaside.

The couple’s sailboat ran aground off the coast of North Carolina in 2003, bringing their gypsy lifestyle to a halt. They happened upon Seaside while continuing their travels, and decided not to leave.

Once settled, the couple started Le Petit Café in Ruskin Place, and later opened Café Rendez-Vous. Along with food and beverage offerings, the couple sold Wendy’s pearl and leather jewelry.

“At Café Rendez-Vous, we were selling more jewelry than wine,” said Alderson.

With the success of the jewelry line, the Mignots opened La Vie Est Belle and the shipwreck jewelry line was born.

Wendy’s salvaged-coin jewelry also features currency from ancient times of the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Phoenicians, and some even from the Holy Land.

“Some of the coins are as old as 450 B.C.,” said Alderson.

These coins are no exception and each bears an interesting history. One bracelet features a small, dime-sized coin with a significant back story.

This particular coin depicts a sunburst on one side, and a blooming lotus scepter of ancient Egypt on the opposite.

Called a “mite,” this small-in-value coin was made famous in the Biblical gospels of Mark and Luke. The story, often called “The Widow’s Mite” says that a group of wealthy patrons were donating large sums of money to the temple. In walked a poor widow. She contributes to the cash pool two mites, which may be likened to less than a cent today.

While his supporters saw only her sum, Jesus saw the true value in her donation. He said it was the greatest donation of all, as she gave all she had.

The mite, shipwreck and other coins have rich histories documented and authenticated by means of a certificate, which comes with each piece purchased.

“You can wear them, wear the history, wear the shipwreck,” said Alderson.

Visit La Vie Est Belle at 25 Central Square C-1, Seaside, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For more information about the company or the Mignots, “Like” La Vie Est Belle on Facebook, visit, or call 231-4692.

Courtesy The Walton Sun
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