A collection of seven VOC silver ingots
Four stamped with VOC Amsterdam monogram, and with the Amsterdam assayer’s hallmark of the Grill family, silver assayers in Amsterdam, circa 1738
Weight circa 1960 grams
All bars are 98.7% pure silver
Three stamped with the VOC Zeeland/Middelburg monogram, two with the Middelburg assayer’s hallmark of François Engelsen and one with the assayer’s hallmark of Gerrit van Driel
Weight 1758 and 1766 grams (marked François Engelen)
Weight 1751 grams (marked Gerrit van Driel) All bars are 98.7% pure silver
The Amsterdam ingots were salvaged in 2004 from the wreck of the VOC East-Indiaman Rooswijk of the Amsterdam VOC Chamber. She sank on her second voyage to the Dutch East Indies off the English coast on the Goodwin Sands in 1739.
The Dutch had little to offer in Asia but silver and gold. Therefore, VOC ships had to sail to Asia with silver and gold bars to pay for Asian goods. The bars were cast in private factories, run by assayers, from melted-down silver coins, mainly Spanish-American ‘reales’. Once in Asia, these bars were melted down again and minted into coins and silver objects that could be used to pay for purchases or as diplomatic gifts in the East.
The Grill family originated from Genoa, their name comes from the Italian Grillo, meaning cricket, and the family’s coat-of-arms displays a crane holding a cricket in its beak. Part of the family moved to Augsburg and Amsterdam where they became gold- and silversmiths. Some moved on to Sweden to become one of the wealthiest merchant families in Stockholm in the 18th century, having significant influence within the Swedish East India Company (SOIC). The branches of the Grill family trading houses in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Hamburg, and Amsterdam worked closely together. Anthoni Grill (1664-1727) moved back to Amsterdam from Sweden and settled in the Kalverstraat. In 1712 he was appointed assayer at the Wisselbank, supplying the Dutch East India Company with silver. After he died childless in 1727, his two nephews, Johannes and Anthoni, continued the silver melting business until 1747.
The three Middelburg ingots were salvaged in 1986 from the wreck of the VOC East-Indiaman Bredenhof of the Middelburg VOC Chamber, heading for India and wrecked the 6th of June 1753 on a reef about 13 miles off the coast of Mozambique. The Bredenhof carried 29 crates with silver bars and a crate with 5000 gold ducats. To prevent looting the crew dropped the boxes containing the silver bars overboard, expecting to recover them later, and took the gold with them ashore. Attempts to recover the lost silver in 1754 and again in 1755 failed. The boxes falling on the reef broke and the silver bars moved about by the currents on the reef and in the sand lost weight and shape through abrasion. On the François Engelsen bar, one of the very first bars brought to the surface in May 1986, a small drill test has been performed on the side of the bar for metallurgical assessment. In addition, the year
of the find and the registration number have been punched: -1986-11305- 4. Silversmith François Engelsen jr. (1694-1754) was Dean of the Guild of Silversmiths in Middelburg in 1752.