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Families of survivors add to Titanic auction

The April 1 auction of more than 5,000 Titanic artifacts a century after the luxury liner's sinking has stirred hundreds of interested calls, with some offering to add to the dazzling trove already plucked from the ocean floor.

Auctioneer Arlan Ettinger said his New York auction house, Guernsey's Auctioneers & Brokers, has heard from some descendants of the more than 700 survivors, including one offer he describes as morbid: papers found on the floating body of a passenger after the sinking.

"Their relative was found floating, and when the body was recovered, papers were removed -- passports and other documents," he said.

The papers will not be included, but something much more poignant will be: a children's bracelet with the name Amy spelled out in diamonds. Only two Amys were listed among 2,228 passengers, of whom more than 1,500 died.

"It's very personal and very touching to see that," Ettinger said.

The auction will feature clothing, fine china, gold coins, silverware and "The Big Piece" -- a 17-ton section of the Titanic's hull -- plucked from the pitch-black depths 2.5 miles beneath the North Atlantic. It will be sold in one lot, and the winning bid will be announced April 11. It was appraised in 2007 at $189 million.

Ettinger said Guernsey's has had its share of high-profile auctions -- treasures from the estates of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Princess Diana and President John F. Kennedy -- but the collection from the world's most famous shipwreck tops them all. The Titanic sank April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg the night before during its maiden passage from Southampton, England, to New York.

"Where on this planet can you go and say the word 'Titanic' and not get some reaction?" he asked.

A team led by Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985, about 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada.