Historical information

The gold cross was discovered by Victorian scuba diver Julie Wilkins, who had already experienced more than 500 dives in Australia and overseas. She was holidaying in Peterborough, Victoria, and looking forward to discovering more about the famous Loch Ard ship, wrecked in June 1878 at Mutton Bird Island. The fast Glasgow-built clipper ship was only five years old when the tragedy occurred. There were 54 people on board the vessel and only two survived

Julie's holiday photograph of Boat Bay reminds her of her most memorable dive. Submerged in the calm, flat sea, she was carefully scanning around the remains of the old wreck when, to her amazement, a gold coin and a small gold cross suddenly came up towards her. She excitedly cupped them in her hands, then stowed the treasures safely in her wetsuit and continued her dive. She soon discovered a group of brass carriage clock parts and some bottles of champagne. It was a day full of surprises. The items were easily recognisable, without any build-up of encrustations or concretion.

Julie secretly enjoyed her treasures for twenty-four years then packed them up for the early morning train trip to Warrnambool. After a short walk to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village. Her photograph was taken as she handed over her precious find, she told her story to a local newspaper reporter, lunched a café in town then took the late afternoon train home. Her generous donation is now part of a vast collection of Loch Ard shipwreck artefacts, including the gold watch and the Minton Majolica model peacock.

The small decorative cross dates back to on or before 1878, when the Loch Ard had set sail. The loop and ring have been added, perhaps as a pendant, pocket watch accessory or similar purpose. It may have been worn for ‘good luck’ or a ‘blessing’ on the long journey to Australia, where ships had to carefully navigate the treacherous Bass’s Strait before arriving at their destination of Melbourne. Sadly, many met their fate on that short stretch of ocean aptly named the Shipwreck Coast.

The cross is very recognisable even though it was exposed to the wrecking of the ship, its consequent movement, and the sea's turbulence. Its scratched, pitted and worn condition, and the damage near the loop, is part of its story. The red-brown-black discolouration is similar to that found on other gold coins, sometimes called the ‘corrosion phenomena’. Studies suggest the possible cause is contaminants in the minting process reacting to the coins’ environment. Three edges of the cross have slightly raised narrow ridges of gold which could have been cause by the gold being cast liquid gold into a mould.


This gold cross pendant is significant as a symbol of Christianity, a sign of hope and safety, and a sample of the religious following on board the Loch Ard, although not everyone wears a cross for this reason.
This cross is a sample of jewellery owned by people migrating to Australia in the late 19th century.
The cross and the guinea recovered together from the wreck of the Loch Ard are made of gold and help interpret the financial status of some of those on board.

Physical description

Gold cross; yellow gold with decorative hand engraved foliage design on the front, fitted loop and ring on top. The simple Latin or Roman variation of the cross, with an elongated vertical arm, has no figure on it and the reverse has no decoration. The right, left and base edges have sections of narrow, long slightly raised ridges. The top edge has remnants of red-black colour. Victorian era cross, ca. 1878.
The cross was recovered from the wreck of the ship Loch Ard.

Inscriptions & markings

Engraved foliage design.
Slightly raised long ridges on sides and base edges.