7 Valuable Titanic Artifacts & Their Fascinating Stories

Some of these treasures from the Titanic have never been recovered, but their memory lives on.

Published December 20, 2023
Computer generated 3D illustration with an Ocean Liner

While the terrible loss of life still chills us more than a century later, part of the mystique of the Titanic involves the opulence of the ship and the cargo it contained. After all, the artifacts from Titanic that survived on the sea floor tell a story of such luxury (and humanity) that they offer a way for those of us living now to experience just a little bit of what life was like for the the passengers and crew of the doomed ship.

Even though some things have been brought to the surface, some of the most valuable items from Titanic will never be recovered. We only know about them through the insurance claims filed by survivors or the next of kin of those who perished in the 1912 wreck. Whether the artifacts were destroyed by the pressure and sea water, recovered as part of one of the expeditions to explore the wreck, or still remain mysteriously missing, it's absolutely fascinating to know about the treasures that were worth the most.

1. Oil Painting La Circassienne au Bain - Over $3 Million in Today's Money

Oil Painting La Circassienne au Bain

The most valuable artifact from Titanic will never be recovered, but we still know quite a bit about it. It was a huge oil painting, called La Circassienne au Bain, by artist Merry-Joseph Blondel. A Swedish businessman brought the eight-foot by four-foot painting on the journey, and his insurance claim for $100,000 was the largest single item property loss claim against the White Star Line.

La Circassienne au Bain was already famous before the sinking, and there are etchings and copies of it that were made before the original was lost. That means we know what it looked like, even though it's lost forever. It showed a neoclassical woman bathing. The painting was even displayed in the Louvre.

In today's dollars, the insurance value of the painting would be over $3 million.

2. Wallace Hartley's Violin - $1.5 Million

violin of Wallace Hartley

One of the most valuable artifacts from Titanic is also one of the saddest. The ship's bandmaster, Wallace Harley, had a Stradivarius violin and played it as the ship was sinking to help calm and comfort the passengers. No one knows for sure what song he played on his violin, but many believe it was the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee."

Hartley did not survive the sinking, but his violin did. Ten days after the wreck, his body was found floating in the Atlantic with his music case strapped to his back. Inside was this violin. In 2013, the same violin sold for $1.5 million at auction.

3. Charlotte Cardeza's Giant Pink Diamond - $620,000 in Today's Money

When the New York Times reported on the insurance claims after the Titanic went down, they went into great detail about a claim of more than $177,000 by passenger Charlotte Cardeza for her jewels and clothing. She lost 14 trunks in the disaster, and the most valuable item was a $20,000 pink diamond ring weighing in at more than six carats.

The diamond hasn't been recovered (yet), but it may be the inspiration for the Heart of the Ocean in the movie Titanic. In today's money, Charlotte Cardeza's pink diamond is worth over $620,000.

4. 1912 Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville - $269,500

If you remember the movie Titanic, you probably recall the love scene in the car. That car was an exact replica of a real car that went down with the ship and has yet to be recovered. The owner, William E. Carter, survived the wreck and made a $5,000 insurance claim, which was paid out by Lloyd's of London.

The actual car is probably still somewhere on the bottom of the Atlantic (or at least some parts of it are), but a 1912 Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville sold at auction in 2012 (a century after the sinking) for $269,500.

5. Jeweled Copy of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaáyyát - $120,000 in Today's Money

One of the rarest and most valuable books in the world sank on the Titanic. It was an incredibly ornate and luxurious jeweled copy of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaáyyát. It featured a wood and ivory case and fine leather binding set with gold and more than 1,000 gems, including rubies, emeralds, amethysts, and more.

The book had just sold at auction a few days before the sinking of the Titanic. Because of economic factors at the time, it sold for only 405 pounds, or only about a third of its value. Today, it's estimated to be worth at least $120,000.

Need to Know

Even though it hasn't been recovered, there's a good chance the jeweled copy of the Rubaáyyát may still exist on the sea floor. Paper and leather items have held up surprisingly well, and the jewels are probably still there too.

6. Stopped Pocket Watch - $118,700

A silver pocket watch is another really valuable item recovered after the sinking of the Titanic. This watch, which experts estimate stopped when it hit the water about five minutes before the ship slipped beneath the waves, sold at auction for $118,700. The silver-on-brass watch belonged to Sinai Kantor, a Russian immigrant who died in the disaster.

Kantor's body was recovered after the wreck, and the watch was in his pocket. His wife, Miriam, survived the sinking and kept the watch during her lifetime.

Related: 6 Fascinating Recovered Titanic Artifacts & the Stories They Tell

7. First-Class Dinner Menu - $102,000

A first class dinner menu from onboard the Titanic

A recovered artifact from Titanic that was originally worth almost nothing was sold at the same auction house as the pocket watch for $102,000. It's a paper menu from the evening the Titanic sailed, and it offers a glimpse at what the first-class passengers got to eat for dinner, such as "spring lamb with mint sauce."

After its time on the ship, the menu spent decades in an old photo album, where it was discovered by a collector in the 1960s. After he passed away, it went up for auction. The combination of water stains and gilt printing make it a very important and telling artifact about what life was like on the ship.

Opulence and Tragedy in Artifacts From Titanic

Titanic has a special place in our history because of the opulence and tragedy it represents, and the artifacts from Titanic that are worth the most show both. Whether or not the items have been recovered, their stories live on.

7 Valuable Titanic Artifacts & Their Fascinating Stories