On board were 1,134 passengers, 572 crew members, 401 tons of cargo (including 1,000 Olivetti typewriters and 500 Necchi sewing machines), 522 pieces of baggage, 1,754 bags of mail and nine cars, including the Norseman, a special prototype car that was a joint project of Chrysler and Ghia. The car was valued at more than $100,000.
Incredibly, only 51 people died in the accident - five crew members of the Stockholm and 46 passengers of the Andrea Doria. Among them 43 died instantly when their cabins were obliterated.
In what is considered the greatest sea rescue in history, all the passengers who were alive after the collision were saved, as the Andrea Doria tilted helplessly and cold ocean water flooded into the gash at its side.
The ship has become one of the most popular wreck sites in the world, since it is dotted with relics and it is not protected, unlike other famous wrecks such as the Lusitania and the Titanic.
"It is a trophy dive. Divers can keep the artifacts they find," Silverstein said. "Although, some items are still covered under John Moyer's 1993 maritime arrest."
Slideshow: The Sinking Of The Andrea Doria
However, it is not easy to get Andrea Doria china cups and silverware. Lying in 250 feet of absinthe-green water, the ship is considered the "Mount Everest of wreck diving," and has so far claimed the lives of 15 divers.
The Andrea Doria presents many dangers even to experienced divers because of treacherous currents, sharks, wires and cables hanging like spiderwebs, and the risk of getting lost while entering the wreck.
"The desire to get artifacts is one of the reasons why many divers have died. We run a very controlled diving environment, because safety is our top priority. It is actually easier to dive now than it was 10 years ago, because the ship is falling apart. The artifacts are just falling out, so there is no need for new divers to enter the wreck," Silverstein said.
In 1993 Silverstein was part of the expedition where John Moyer recovered several intact massive tiled panels with ceramic sculptures by Guido Gambone, an artist heavily influenced by Picasso.
"Now the wreck is very much deteriorated, cracking and peeling in sections. The tip of the bow is only 20 feet from the sand, whereas 10 years ago it was 50 feet up," Silverstein said.
Weathered by half a century on the ocean floor, the bell, which is 16 inches tall and 16 inches wide at the rim, still rings out with wonderful tone. It is now under restoration and will likely go on display at several diving exhibitions.
Pictures: Courtesy of Joel Silverstein/Tech Diving Limited | Maurizio Eliseo.
Video courtesy of Joel Silverstein/Tech Diving Limited.