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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - The Lost Bounty: These Are The 25 Lost Treasures Vanished Without a Trace

Special Reports

The Lost Bounty: These Are The 25 Lost Treasures Vanished Without a Trace

Across the annals of history, diverse cultures have crafted remarkable works of art and ornamentation, unearthed precious minerals and gems, and accumulated vast treasures—often through the appropriation of other prized possessions. Throughout the existence of these invaluable creations, objects, and collections, a persistent theme emerges: they vanish or are pilfered without a trace.

In an exploration of 25 elusive treasures that remain lost to this day, we delve into a compendium of sources, including LiveScience, the Monuments Men and Women Foundation, Wired, the BBC, Reader’s Digest, and BestLife. The compilation scrutinizes instances where priceless artifacts disappeared, casting a spotlight on the challenges of safeguarding them, especially amid the chaos of war, revolutions, or natural calamities. 

While some stolen treasures have been successfully recovered, a substantial number remains elusive, with the ominous possibility of destruction lingering. The practice of armies pillaging treasures dates back to the earliest civilizations. 

In the first century A.D., the Roman army seized the menorah—a seven-branched candelabrum—from the Second Temple in Jerusalem, relocating it to Rome, where it eventually dissipated into obscurity. 

Notable losses during the upheaval of World War II include Japan’s Honjō Masamune sword, the Royal Casket of Poland, and Raphael’s “Portrait of a Young Man.”

Vessels like the São Vicente, the Flor de la Mar, and the Beatrice now rest on the ocean floor, cradling untold riches and irreplaceable artifacts, including Incan relics and an elaborate sarcophagus from Egypt. 

Among the submerged treasures are stolen items like Tucker’s Gross, the Crown Jewels of Ireland, and Caravaggio’s “Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence.” Meanwhile, some valuables, such as the Library of Moscow Tsars or distinct Romanov Fabergé eggs, have simply vanished without a trace.

Presented below are 25 lost treasures that continue to elude discovery:

  1. Menorah from the Second Temple
    Last witnessed: Second Temple, Jerusalem, 1st century.
    The menorah, a seven-branched golden candelabrum, was transported from the Second Temple in Jerusalem to Rome following the suppression of a revolt in the province of Judea in the year 70. Triumphantly paraded through the city center to commemorate Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus’ victory, the menorah, along with other treasures from the Temple, was placed in the newly constructed Roman Temple of Peace. Though historical records mention the menorah being seen in Rome in the second century, its fate becomes shrouded in mystery after the Temple of Peace burned down around 192, with one account suggesting it was taken to Carthage by the Vandals in 455. Today, a representation of the menorah serves as the emblem of Israel.

  2. Treasure of Thibaud de Castillon
    Last sighted: On the ship São Vicente near Cartagena, Spain, 1357.
    Thibaud de Castillon, the bishop of Bazas in France, accumulated a vast fortune, including gold, silver, jewels, and tapestries, during his tenure in Lisbon. Following his death, the Portuguese ship São Vicente, laden with his treasure en route from Portugal to France, fell prey to two pirate ships near Cartagena, Spain. Led by captains Antonio “Botafoc” and Martin Yanes, the pirates overwhelmed the ship, leading to the surrender of its treasure. While Botafoc and his crew were captured near Aigues-Mortes, France, the fate of Yanes’ ship and its likely cache of rare items remains a permanent mystery.

  3. Treasure of the Flor de la Mar
    Last seen: Off the coast of Sumatra, 1511.
    The Flor de la Mar, an immense Portuguese sailing ship carrying riches stolen from the Sultan of Malacca, met its demise off the northeastern coast of Sumatra in 1511. Caught in a storm, the barely seaworthy vessel attempted to seek refuge but crashed into shoals, splitting in two and sinking. The treasure, speculated to be worth over $3 billion in today’s currency, encompassed gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, coins, jewels, and rare hand-drawn maps by Javanese artists. The exact contents of the lost treasure remain unverified.

  4. Library of the Moscow Tsars
    Last known location: Moscow, Russia, 16th century.
    Before the Romanov dynasty, the rulers of Moscow purportedly assembled a vast library of ancient Greek, Roman, and possibly Egyptian texts known as the Golden Library or the Library of the Moscow Tsars. Initial references to the collection date back to 1518, with legends suggesting that Ivan the Terrible concealed the library’s manuscripts. While its existence is debated, the search for this mythical lost library has spanned centuries, with some old texts in Greek and other languages in archives in Moscow and St. Petersburg potentially originating from this mysterious repository.

  5. Michelangelo’s “Leda and the Swan”
    Last known possession: Possibly with the French royal family, 1691.
    Created in the 1530s by Michelangelo, “Leda and the Swan” depicted a Greek myth where Zeus, disguised as a swan, seduces Leda. Acquired by King François I of France, the painting was part of the royal Fontainebleau collection in the early 1530s. Its subsequent fate is uncertain, with some sources suggesting its destruction by Queen Anne of Austria in 1691 due to perceived “lasciviousness.” The original painting and a copy by the French court painter Rosso Fiorentino are lost, but the image endures through a drawing, likely by Fiorentino, at the Royal Academy in London; a copy by an unknown artist at London’s National Gallery and an engraving by the Flemish artist Cornelis Bos at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  6. Scepter of Dagobert
    Last observed: Basilica of Saint-Denis, France, 1795.
    Part of the ancient French Crown Jewels, the Scepter of Dagobert, dating back to the 7th century, disappeared during the French Revolution. Stolen from the Basilica of Saint-Denis in 1795, this historically significant relic has not resurfaced despite its cultural importance.

  7. The Esperanza’s treasure
    Last spotted: Spanish ship Esperanza off Peru’s Pacific Coast, 1816.
    Sailing from Callao in Peru in 1816, the Esperanza, laden with treasure looted from the Viceroyalty of Peru, encountered a storm off the coast. Damaged and subsequently plundered by pirates, the ship met its end on Palmyra Atoll. Legend suggests that the pirates distributed some of the treasure and buried the rest on the island, but the location remains undiscovered.

  8. Ornate sarcophagus of Pharaoh Menkaure
    Last seen: Merchant ship Beatrice, off the coast of Malta, 1838.
    The ornate sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Menkaure, discovered by Howard Vyse inside the smallest of the three Giza pyramids, was being transported to England aboard the merchant ship Beatrice in 1838 when the vessel sank off the coast of Malta. Efforts to locate the sunken ship have been ongoing, with conflicting opinions on its possible location near Malta or off the Spanish city of Cartagena.

  9. Crown Jewels of Ireland
    Last observed: Dublin Castle, 1907.
    The Irish Crown Jewels, linked to the Order of St. Patrick rather than royalty, vanished from Dublin Castle in 1907. Consisting of a star with Brazilian diamonds, a diamond badge, and five decorative gold collars, the jewels were last documented on June 11 and reported missing on July 6. Despite extensive investigations, the jewels, suspected to have been stolen by Francis Shackleton, remain lost.

  10. Romanov Fabergé eggs
    Last sighted: St. Petersburg, Russia, 1917.
    Crafted by Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé for the Romanov royal family between 1885 and 1916, the famous Fabergé eggs numbered 69 in total. After the Romanovs’ execution during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, six eggs belonging to Maria Feodorovna, the onetime Empress of Russia, went missing. The known eggs, valued at millions of dollars each, remain accounted for, with one 18k gold egg encrusted with sapphires and diamonds selling for an estimated $33 million in 2014.

  11. The Florentine Diamond
    Last observed: Bank vault in Switzerland, 1918.
    With a storied and enigmatic past, the 137.27-carat Florentine diamond likely originated in India and entered Europe during the 15th century. One theory links it to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who may have possessed it at the time of his death in battle. Eventually, coming into the possession of the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary around 1743, the diamond reached Switzerland with the last Habsburg emperor, Charles I, following his deposition. Charles entrusted the diamond to Austrian lawyer Bruno Steiner for sale, along with other royal jewels. What transpired afterward remains unclear. In 1924, Steiner faced fraud charges in connection with the diamond’s disappearance but was acquitted. Rumors suggest the diamond was possibly sold in the U.S. during the 1920s and subsequently cut into smaller stones.

  12. ‘Just Judges’ Panel of the Ghent Altarpiece
    Last seen: St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, 1934.
    A part of the 15th-century Ghent Altarpiece, the “Just Judges” or “Righteous Judges” panel, painted by Jan Van Eyck or his brother Hubert, vanished from St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent in 1934. This priceless 33-foot panel, depicting mysterious figures on horseback, potentially representing the Duke of Burgundy, was stolen and never recovered. Arsène Goedertier, the thief, claimed on his deathbed to have taken the masterpiece, vowing to carry its location to his grave. Despite ongoing tips about its whereabouts, the unsolved case remains open, with a 2,000-page file testifying to its enduring mystery.

  13. Honjō Masamune Sword
    Last seen: Mejiro police station, Tokyo, 1946.
    A legendary sword won in battle by General Honjō Shigenaga in 1561, the Honjō Masamune passed through various owners, ending up with the Tokugawa family. Post-WWII, during the U.S. occupation of Japan, families had to surrender weapons, leading the Tokugawa family to hand over 14 swords, including the Honjō Masamune, to the Mejiro police station in Tokyo in December 1945. In 1946, it was purportedly given to a U.S. soldier named Sgt. Coldy Bimore, though no record of such a person has been found.

  14. Amber Room
    Last seen: Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1941.
    The Amber Room, adorned with amber panels, gold leaf, and mirrors, was part of the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg. Seeking it as a symbol of German pride, Hitler ordered its removal from Königsberg Castle during WWII. As Germany faced defeat, the Amber Room was relocated again, but Königsberg was heavily bombed by the Allies, and the castle suffered damage from Soviet artillery. While widely believed to be destroyed, some hold onto the hope that the Amber Room survived. In 1979, Russian artisans began reconstructing it at the Catherine Palace, completing the project after 24 years.

  15. Peking Man Fossils
    Last seen: Vanished during transport to New York City, 1941.
    Discovered in 1923 in a cave near Beijing, the Peking Man fossils, representing an ancient hominid dating back possibly 750,000 years, disappeared in 1941 during the Japanese invasion of China. U.S. Marines, tasked with transporting the fossils from Peking Union Medical College to New York, lost track of them, sparking theories ranging from loss at sea during transport to burial under a parking lot in China.

  16. Royal Casket of Poland
    Last seen: Kraków, Poland, 1939.
    The Royal Casket, a repository of gold and silver relics from various monarchs, was concealed during the November Uprising of 1830 at the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków, Poland. Unearthed by a German employee of the Czartoryski family during the Nazi occupation in WWII, the casket and its treasures were looted. Although some items were recovered post-war, the Royal Casket and most of its invaluable contents remain unrecovered.

  17. Raphael’s ‘Portrait of a Young Man’
    Last seen: A Nazi official’s chalet in Neuhaus on Lake Schliersee, Germany, 1945.
    Painted around 1513, Raphael’s “Portrait of a Young Man” resided in the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków until the Nazis discovered it during their 1939 invasion. Intended for Hitler’s projected Führermuseum in Linz, Austria, the painting vanished in 1945 from a Nazi official’s chalet. Despite extensive searches, the masterpiece remains missing, prompting the Czartoryski Museum to offer a $100 million reward for its recovery.

  18. Michelangelo’s ‘Mask of a Faun’
    Last seen: Near Forlì, Italy, 1944.
    Attributed to Michelangelo, the “Mask of a Faun” (or “Head of a Faun”), a marble sculpture representing the mythological creature, was housed in the Bargello Museum in Florence until the Nazis looted it in 1944. German soldiers stole the mask, transporting it away on a truck last seen near the Italian town of Forlì. Despite post-war searches, the masterpiece has not resurfaced.

  19. Caravaggio’s ‘Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence’
    Last seen: Chapel in Palermo, Sicily, 1969.
    Stolen in 1969 from the Oratory of Saint Lawrence in Palermo, Sicily, Caravaggio’s “Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence” remains a sought-after missing artwork. Allegedly orchestrated by the Mafia, the theft led to the painting’s possession by mob boss Gaetano Badalamenti. Despite efforts to broker its return, the painting has never been recovered. More than 50 years have passed, and investigators continue to follow leads, including a recent trip to search in Switzerland based on an informant’s information.

  20. Tucker’s Cross
    Last seen: Bermuda Maritime Museum, 1975.
    In 1955, treasure hunter Teddy Tucker discovered the illustrious Tucker’s Cross—a 22-karat gold cross adorned with seven emeralds—within the wreckage of a 16th-century Spanish galleon off Bermuda’s coast. Regarded as one of the most valuable sunken treasures ever salvaged, this dazzling artifact was briefly showcased at the Bermuda Maritime Museum during Queen Elizabeth II’s 1975 visit. However, before the monarch’s arrival, Tucker realized that a priceless original had been substituted with a plastic replica. Despite investigations by local police, the FBI, and Interpol, the cross was never recovered, and no arrests were made.

  21. Jules Rimet World Cup Trophy
    Last seen: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1983.
    The stolen Jules Rimet World Cup Trophy, a 12-inch statuette of the Greek goddess Nike crafted by French sculptor Abel Lafleur in 1929, was a coveted honor awarded every four years to the winner of soccer’s World Cup. Although not solid gold, it featured a silver core coated in gold. In 1966, it was pilfered from a London exhibition hall but swiftly recovered. Brazil received permanent possession after winning its third World Cup in 1970, yet in 1983, the trophy vanished from the Brazilian Football Confederation headquarters. Despite the arrest of four suspects, all managed to escape, leaving the fate of the trophy unknown. Two suspects died before apprehension, and two served jail sentences unrelated to the trophy theft. A replica was presented to the BFC in 1984.

  22. 13 Art Masterpieces
    Last seen: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, 1990.
    In a daring heist in 1990, two thieves posing as police officers stole thirteen masterpieces valued at $500 million from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The stolen works included pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet. Over an uninterrupted 81-minute spree, the thieves cut these precious artworks from their frames. In adherence to Gardner’s will, the empty frames still hang in the museum, awaiting the return of the original stolen pieces. Despite leads suggesting involvement with local mobsters and a potential move to Philadelphia for black market sale in 2002, none of the stolen items have been recovered. The Gardner theft remains one of the most notorious unsolved art heists, with a $10 million reward still offered.

  23. Antwerp Diamonds
    Last seen: Antwerp Diamond Center vault, 2003.
    In a daring heist that bypassed top-tier security layers, thieves stole $100 million in diamonds from Antwerp’s Diamond Center in 2003. Over a weekend, the robbers dismantled security measures and breached over 100 safe deposit boxes in the heavily fortified hub of the global diamond trade. Despite meticulous planning and execution, the perpetrators, led by prolific thief Leonardo Notabartolo, were caught and served prison sentences. Notabartolo claimed later that a diamond merchant had hired them for an insurance scam. However, none of the stolen loot was ever recovered.

  24. Graff Diamonds Jewelry
    Last seen: Graff Diamonds store on New Bond Street, London, 2009.
    In a bold daylight robbery on August 6, 2009, two well-dressed men robbed the Graff Diamonds store in London at gunpoint. Over 25 minutes, they forced staff to open display cases and stole 43 high-value jewelry pieces worth approximately $65 million. Firing shots to create confusion, they made their escape in a BMW, switching vehicles twice before disappearing. While mastermind Aman Kassaye was sentenced to 23 years and three accomplices received 16 years each, only a 16-carat yellow diamond has been recovered. The remaining stolen jewels are believed to have been quickly sold to international buyers.

  25. Ivory Coast Crown Jewels
    Last seen: Museum of Civilisations, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 2011.
    During a battle in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, priceless cultural treasures, including ancient royal gold jewelry, masks, statues, and religious artifacts dating back to the 17th century, were stolen from the Museum of Civilisations. The heist involved around 80 irreplaceable objects valued at $6 million, showcasing a systematic approach with no forced entry and intact display cases, suggesting potential inside help. Some stolen artifacts trace back to ancient Akan kingdoms, rendering them irreplaceable national relics. Despite the meticulous nature of the theft, the whereabouts of these precious items remain shrouded in mystery.

 

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - The Lost Bounty: These Are The 25 Lost Treasures Vanished Without a Trace
Deepankar Shyam
Global Breaking News Editor at the CEOWORLD magazine, helping lead the direction of the bureau. I'm a veteran digital storyteller with a record of creating best-in-class content and commerce experiences. I work with our reporters and columnists to develop story ideas, edit their work and coordinate with various other bureaus on coverage. I also have broad industry experience managing and leading change while consistently exceeding readership goals and company expectations.