Stone liquidities: On gems, bodies, and value in early modern shipwreck

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This essay examines gemstones and pearls (pedraria) in accounts of shipwreck on the Carreira da Índia. Through an analysis of selected early seventeenth-century texts, it explores the complex and ever-changing trajectories of these small and precious objects at sea. On the perilous journeys of the Portuguese India run, gemstones often went undocumented and easily escaped human control. Stored onboard inside boxes and cabinets, they were removed when the ship was threatened and continued their journeys on or inside human bodies. The essay demonstrates that, in stories of the experience of shipwreck, gems call the notion of value into question, exemplifying how, at sea, one type of liquidity turns into another. Reading shipwreck narratives attentive to the experience of maritime disaster as lived by diverse kinds of bodies opens a space to think afresh about the values of transported things.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-92
JournalViator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2023


  • Shipwreck
  • Carreira da Índia
  • Gemstones
  • Value
  • Object circulation
  • Intersectional bodies
  • Francesco Carletti
  • Melchior Estácio do Amaral


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