Titanic artifacts continue to fascinate the public, as a violin, which was apparently played to calm the passengers on the sinking ship, demonstrated this week when it sold for £900,000 in a matter of minutes at auction in Wiltshire. The BBC reports that the precious instrument was played by Wallace Hartley, who eventually died along with 1,517 others on the doomed voyage.

The anonymous buyer, who is believed to be British, bought the violin for £600,000 over the original guide price of just £300,000. The instrument was sold among a whole host of other Titanic memorabilia, including crockery, newspapers and photographs, which miraculously survived the disaster. The violin is by far the most valuable piece in the collection, with the other items up for sale fetching anywhere between a tenner and a few hundred pounds.

The bidding for the violin, which was marked with lot number 230 (of 251) started at just £50, a price set by auctioneer Alan Aldridge, so that “two of his friends” could bid on the precious items. Within minutes, the price had soared to £100,000 and the violin was sold for the end price of £900,000 in less than ten minutes. The new owner of the piece was bidding over the phone, as was his main rival for the intense final few minutes of the auction.

Thanks in part to the 1997 film, Titanic, Wallace Hartley, his violin and his fellow players have become famous and nearly synonymous with courage. They are famously said to have played the hymn 'Nearer My God To Thee,' whilst the vessel sank into the Atlantic Ocean and choas errupted around them.

The violin was acquired by the Henry Aldridge & Son auction house a few years ago, but it took seven years to authenticate its origin. A number of experts were employed to test its authenticity, including forensic scientists who said the wood still contained salt deposits from the sea water. Even so, some still continue to question that the violin is in fact, the genuine article.