1875 – The Shipwreck of the SS Cadiz and the “Hunting Knife”

In the history of insurance in Portugal are several episodes that enrich it, namely one of the most emblematic – insurance and rescue of the “Hunting Knife”.
A magnificent jewel of Portuguese jewelry, carved in silver by the artist Rafael Zacarias da Costa, inspired by a certain ivory spatula belonging to King Dom Pedro V.
Rafael Zacarias da Costa devoted eleven years to its creation, from the time he cast it into wax until he finished it in silver, and he will have almost lost his vision.
The “Hunting Knife” is 63 cms long. On the handle and sheath can be seen 130 heads of different animals interlaced with rare skill; they are not piled up, as could be expected of such a great number of animals in such little room, they are artistically arranged. Here we have the boar hunted by the hounds and there the majestic lion with his thin mane, the tiger with his hooked claws, the panther, the stag, the graceful doe, the whole forming a group of rare beauty.
King Dom Fernando, to whom the purchase was destined, cannot reach agreement with the master Rafael Zacarias da Costa as to the value of the piece for which it was guarded by the gold merchant Estevam de Sousa, in Áurea street, Lisbon.
Not finding in Portugal who acquired it had as its destination the city of London, in which it was hoped to find a good buyer. To do this, a security of its value – 700 pounds – was made in the then well-respected Fidelidade Insurance Company.
On 9th May 1875, a new maritime tragedy occurred: The “Cadiz” steamer had lost its strength in the battle against the strong storms, eventually wrecking the Brest canal, and on board followed, among other goods, the “Hunting Knife”. On loss of such precious good, the Company compensated its owner for 31,500 réis.
But when all brought the story to an end, Fidelidade continued to search for a happy ending. The Fidelidade decided to undertake all efforts to recover the knife and, to that purpose, contacted the well-known firm of London, Casa Bruno da Silva & Sons and with the support of the London Salvage Association, it was possible to recover from the depths of the seas the treasure of our cultural heritage.
Today, the “Hunting Knife” is part of the patrimony of Fidelidade Insurance Company and was present at the inauguration of the Permanent Exhibition Memory of Insurance.
Magazine of Companhia de Seguros Fidelidade-Mundial, SA, “Companhia” nº 2, págs. 20 e 21 (July 2004) – CHAPAS Club collection
“Hunting Knife”
Fidelidade Insurance Company S.A.
Largo do Calhariz 30, in Lisbon
Photo from the CHAPAS Club collection