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Gold and Ruby Salamander Pendant

Gold and Ruby Salamander PendantThis little salamander, or ‘winged lizard’, of gold inset with rubies is only one piece from the sumptuous collection of 1500's jewellery recovered from the Spanish Armada galleas, Girona.

This is located in the 'Armada' gallery, number 11 on the Ulster Museum map.

Download the Ulster Museum Adult Map in English (PDF 286KB), for other languages please visit the museum visiting information pages.

This beautiful salamander pendant, of gold set with rubies, reflects the grandeur of the Spanish empire. Gold and silver from the Spanish conquests in the Americas were a primary source of income for the empire (click image to enlarge).

While large numbers of splendid native gold ornaments were melted down for bullion, the ideas of South American craftsmen were often retained. This may explain the fondness for jewels in the form of animals, which appeared during the 16th century. Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of the Aztec Empire of Mexico, recorded in 1526 that among the gold ornaments sent to Spain was a "winged lizard" or salamander. In legend, the salamander was believed to have the magical properties of being able to extinguish and to survive fire - this made it a potent good luck charm on board a wooden fighting ship, where fire was one of the greatest hazards.

The pendant is part of the sumptuous collection of Renaissance gold jewellery recovered from the galleass Girona, which sank of the north Antrim in the storms of 1588, following the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Armada collection

The Armada Collection, Ulster Museum

Of the 130 Spanish ships that set out in 1588 to invade England, over 20 of them were wrecked off the North and West coasts of Ireland.

The Ulster Museum owns the excavated remains of three of these ships, the galleass Girona which was wrecked at Lacada Point, near the Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim, La Trinidad Valencera which ran aground in Kinnagoe Bay, Co. Donegal and the Santa Maria de La Rosa which sank suddenly in Blasket Sound, Co. Kerry.