These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You
These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You

These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You

D.G. Hewitt - March 8, 2018

These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You
Some of the biggest jewels from the Patiala Necklace are still missing. Indian Television.

The Patiala Necklace

The House of Cartier is synonymous with ostentatious, though tasteful, displays of wealth. So it’s no surprise that when they set about making a necklace for Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1928, they spared no expense. As the ruling Maharaja of the state of Patiala, India, Singh was used to the finer things in life, so making a piece of jewelry that would be the centerpiece of his collection was no easy feat. Nevertheless, the House of Cartier did it, and the Patiala Necklace was soon regarded as one of the most exquisite pieces ever made.

In all, the necklace contained an incredible 2,930 diamonds. But that’s not all. Its centerpiece was the De Beers Diamond, the seventh largest in the world, with a pre-cut weight of 428 carats. That in itself was worth a small fortune. Alongside this huge stone, the necklace was adorned with seven other large diamonds and several Burmese rubies, again all worth huge sums of money.

As is customary, Bhupinder Singh passed the necklace onto his son, Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, who was last seen wearing it in 1948. Then, it simply vanished. It’s possible the family knew what happened to it but preferred to stay silent. Indeed, it could well be that the family fell on hard times and needed money so desperately that they decided to break the necklace apart and sell off its individual jewels on the international market. However, nobody knows for certain what led it to vanish from the Patiala royal treasury in April of 1948.

In a strange twist, the De Beers diamond reappeared some years later. It turned up at a Sotheby’s Auction in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1982. Despite the strange circumstances surrounding the stone and its sudden re-discovery, it was sold for $3.16 million, a significant sum at the time but only a fraction of what it’s likely to fetch today. But that’s not all. In 1998, a representative of the House of Cartier unexpectedly came across the remains of the Patiala Necklace in a London antiques shop. Surely the story of lost treasure was over? Not quite.

Cartier may well have been able to reconstruct the necklace, complete with a replica of the De Beers Diamond, but many of the original jewels remain missing. In fact, all seven of the other large diamonds, the biggest 73 carats, are unaccounted for, as are the striking Burmese rubies. Could it be that they too are waiting to be discovered in an obscure antique shop, laying the mystery of one of India’s greatest treasures to rest once and for all? Only time will tell.

These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You
The Menorah was taken from Jerusalem to Rome. But where is it now?

The Menorah of the Second Temple

While some missing treasures are often described with reference to the many millions of pounds they would be worth if they were found today, there are some you simply can’t put a price on. This is surely true for the Menorah of the Second Temple, a religious artifact that has been missing for centuries. A lack of historical evidence or even clues as to its whereabouts hasn’t stopped the ultimate fate of the Menorah being the subject of countless theories, some significantly more plausible than others.

In the Bible, the Menorah is described as a candelabra with seven arms. While it may originally have had a practical purpose, with olive oil burned on each of its lights to illuminate the Second Temple in Jerusalem, it has long since had a huge symbolic value for the Jewish people. Indeed, the Menorah had served as a symbol of Judaism itself for centuries and these days appears on the coat of arms of Israel. Its potency is only made greater by the fact that it hasn’t been seen for more than 1,000 years, the ultimate lost treasure of an entire people.

The Book of Maccabees in the Old Testament describes how a second Menorah was crafted after the First Temple of Jerusalem was attacked and its treasures pillaged. This replacement didn’t last long, however. In 70AD, with the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, the Menorah was taken to Rome and, according to the writings of Josephus, displayed triumphantly by the returning generals. The records also show that it was then placed in the Temple of Peace, an ancient Roman temple whose construction was funded entirely by the spoils of campaign against Jerusalem, and there it remained for several centuries.

When the Vandals took Rome in 455AD, the Menorah was still on display in the temple. But after that? Nobody knows for sure, and this is the point where academic historians, amateur sleuths and conspiracy theorists start to disagree. The first group believe the simplest explanation is the most likely: as with many treasures of the time, it was melted down or just broken up by the Vandals. Alternatively, the conquerors may have taken it out of Rome and to their own capital. Carthage, though what happened to the Menorah after that is another question.

More colorful explanations include the theory that the Menorah was lost in a shipwreck just outside of Rome. In fact, this idea got such support at one point that in 1919, archaeologists had the River Tiber dredged in a bid to find the lost treasure. Alternatively, some theorists even maintain that the Vatican has the Menorah secreted away in its vaults, or – in a twist that would make Dan Brown proud – that it’s hidden in the vaults of Rome’s Catholic cathedral, with successive Popes keeping the secret safe.

These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You
King John of England lost his crown jewels, never to be recovered. Kirton in Lindsey Town Hall.

King John’s Treasure

King John of England was known as ‘Bad King John’ for good reason. As well as being generally regarded as hugely incompetent, he was something of a tyrant and also hugely greedy. The mad monarch would routinely rob from his enemies and even his allies, enriching himself with gold coins, gold plates and jewelry. Some, he gave away to his bodyguards and closest allies, more for self-preservation than due to any sense of generosity. The vast bulk, however, John kept for himself, though it is believed he lost much of his treasure, and it’s yet to be found.

The background to the legend of King John’s Treasure is a matter of historical record. By the end of the twelfth century, the major landowners of England had had enough of their crazy king. The barons rebelled, seeking to reverse John’s fiscal reforms and negotiate better conditions for themselves. While both sides laid down their arms with the Magna Carta peace treaty of 1215 – a treaty that is still seen as a major milestone in British history – neither the king nor the barons stuck to their word and fighting recommenced soon after.

In October 1216, while out waging war in the east of England, the king fell ill and started to head westwards back to his castle. While the monarch made it safely back to Newark Castle, his men tried to take a short cut over the large expanses of marshes and mud flats known as The Wash. They, and the wagons they were transporting, became trapped in the mud as the tide started to rise. The men were drowned and the wagons, containing all of King John’s crown jewels, were lost.

Eight centuries on, the treasure has yet to be found. But that’s not due to a lack of trying. Over the years, everyone from professional archaeologists to mystics have headed to The Wash in a bid to find the jewels. But what will they find if indeed they do uncover the wagons? According to some historians, John was only carrying with him some panels for his own private chapel or, at most, a single crown. But others believe that a huge hoard of treasure is there to be found, with the whole stash possibly even worth as much as $70,000,000 in today’s money. However, until the mud gives up its secret, what Mad King John lost that day in 1216 will remain a mystery.

These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You
Flor de le Mar. Wikimedia.

The Treasure of the Flor de la Mar

When the Flor de la Mar (or ‘Flower of the Sea’) set sail from Malacca, a commercial hub in the East Indies, one night in November 1511, it is reputed that she was carrying the largest treasure ever assembled by the Portuguese Navy. On the face of it, this was a straightforward journey. After all, the frigate had been successfully sailing the Indian Ocean for nine years and, despite her bulk, was known for her agility. What’s more, her captain the nobleman Alfonso de Albuquerque, was an experienced skipper. As well as being a decorated knight and respected explorer, he was a veteran of runs between the East Indies and his native Portugal. Surely, he could be trusted to deliver the precious cargo to his king?

Along with four other ships, the Flor de la Mar got caught up in a violent storm in the Straits of Malacca, just days after leaving port. On the night of 20 November 1511, it hit the infamous reefs of Sumatra and broke in two. The captain was saved from the waves, though others weren’t so lucky. Several of his crew, as well as a number of slaves he was transporting back to Portugal, were drowned. And, of course, the vast treasure he was carrying, much of it a gift from the King of Siam to his Portuguese counterpart, was lost beneath the waves.

While an exact itinerary has yet to be found, it is believed that the Flor de la Mar was carrying several tonnes of gold, as well as many other precious items. In all, the collection is believed to be worth somewhere in the region of $2,6 billion in today’s terms. It’s hardly surprising, then, that, ever since the ship went under, its whereabouts has been the subject of much fasciation and numerous attempts have been made to locate the doomed vessel and, more importantly, recover its precious cargo.

Frustratingly for treasure hunters, the maps the Portuguese sailors of the time used were far from accurate. As such, the exact location of the shipwreck is the subject of much debate. That’s why several well-financed missions have ended up in failure. But even if a treasure hunter was lucky enough to beat the huge odds and find the right spot of the sea bed, perhaps with the help of underwater drones, it’s unclear who would get to keep the loot. Not only Portugal, but Indonesia and Malaysia too, claim salvage rights for the shipwreck.

These 12 Real Life Treasures Yet to be Found Will Surprise You
Illustration of the Knights Templar. Wikimedia.

The Treasure of the Knights Templar

Thanks to the novels of Dan Brown, as well as the blockbuster movies they inspired, most of us are familiar with the Knights Templar. The religious order was established in 1119AD to protect Christian pilgrims on their journeys through the Middle East, with a network of castles and other fortifications built to offer shelter to those in need. Their work was supported by rich benefactors, meaning that over the centuries, the Knights Templars were able to amass a veritable fortune, not just in gold coins, but also in jewels and other precious objects such as artworks. Could it really be that a huge stash of this treasure was hidden away, never to be found?

Some Templar researchers certainly believe this to be the case, and a handful have even dedicated their lives to finding this lost treasure. They argue that, in the confusion and turmoil that surrounded Pope Clement II’s 1307 decree that all Knights should be arrested, and their possessions seized, not only did many Knights escape, but a large proportion of their wealth could have gone missing too. But that doesn’t solve the biggest question of them all: where are the vast riches accumulated by the Knights hidden?

According to most Templar historians, the Paris Templar members succeeded in loading up a wagon full of their treasure and leaving France just before that fateful day in 1307. Many believe they fled to Scotland, taking their wealth – and even maybe the Holy Grail – with them. However, no concrete evidence has ever been found of this happening, so quite what became of the riches of the Paris temple remains a mystery.

Recently, speculation has been mounting that the so-called Oak Island Treasure – a stash believed to be buried on this island in Nova Scotia – could, in fact, be the lost loot of the Knights Templar. Perhaps its lying here waiting for the Order to rise up again…


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Did Archaeologists Uncover Blackbeard’s Treasure?”. Abigail Tucker, The Smithsonian, March 2011.

“Where are the Romanovs’ Missing Faberge Easter Eggs?”. Allison McNearney, The Daily Beast, March 2016.

“British Explorer Closes in On Legendary ‘Treasure of Lima'”. Jasper Copping, The Daily Telegraph, August 2012.

“Town under siege as missing ‘Kruger gold’ is found on farm”. Christopher Munnion, The Daily Telegraph, June 2001.

“Is This Famous Samurai Sword Missing in America?”. Allison McNearey, The Daily Beast, July 2016.

“Amber Room: Priceless Russian treasure stolen by Nazis ‘discovered by German researchers;”. The Independent, October 2017.

“Nazi gold train search abandoned – but brings in £150 million for Polish town”. Benjamin Kentish, The Independent, August 2016.

“Discovery Channel to air mystery of ‘The Patiala Necklace'”. Sandeep Unnithan, India Today, February 2004.

“The lost jewels of Bad King John”. Theodora Sutcliffe, BBC, September 2017.

“Sunken Portuguese galleon sighted in Java Sea”. The Malaysian Star, April 2014.