There have been many tall tales of lost treasures, hidden at the bottom of the sea, or buried in a remote cave far in the wilderness. These tales make great campfire stories and keep you at the edge of your seat. The thrill of finding lost treasure on an adventure and being set for life is appealing to say the least. Stumble onto a huge pile of gold and silver coins, emeralds, diamonds, rubies, you name it.
Then what? You’re set for life. It’s like winning the lottery, only in a what that’s much more fun. Full of bling bling and lot’s of cool selfies holding what pirates called ‘the booty’ for the gram. The gram is ‘instagram’ for the folks that may have been around long before.
The chances of finding the treasure though are slim to none. A needle in a haystack would be a bad analogy to describe finding treasure. With a needle and a haystack at least you know your search area and can process every part of it meticulously. With a ship at the bottom of the ocean however, good luck. That ship and treasure can spread all over the ocean floor. Or, that cave within a multi-hundred mile radius. You could spend a lifetime and barely get close.
That leads us to today’s story. The largest emerald in the world was unearthed in Brazil in 2001. Like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, it doesn’t get much more ‘indiana jones’ like in real life, the coined ‘bahia emerald’ has quite a history and is still up for grabs in legal battles constantly.
In 2001 The Largest Emerald Was Unearthed
The emerald was unearthed by miners in Brazil and weighed more than 1/3 of a ton. In excess of 180,000 carats of alluring emeralds. What happened next, is left only up to mystery. After the miners removed this from the earth they loaded it onto a mule cart as it was so massive they wanted to both hide it from any potential bandits as well as move it. It was coined the Bahia Emerald.
It was at this point that it seemed this giant gemstone appeared to bring bad luck almost immediately. The mule cart and those moving it were attacked by panthers and killed, as the story goes. One way or another, those who survived or found it brought the emerald to Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo. The story goes that gem traders who owned the mine then forced workers to painstakingly remove the massive 381kg (840lb) emerald from underground with a makeshift stretcher to finally get it to the city.
The Bahia emerald, as it was toted was showed to a man who co-owned the mine. He was told that he could purchase the Emerald for $60,000 USD from the Brazilians. Mind you, this Emerald is estimated to be worth $400 Million. A far cry short of it’s actual value.
Later on, both the Brazilians and the American looking to purchase the stone both proclaimed that this did not take place. Confusing huh?
And this was just the beginning of the story. Emeralds attract all kind of crazy attention. Diamonds may be forever, but perfect emeralds are worth much more. More than diamonds? Yep.
Somehow The Bahia Emerald Made Its Way To The USA
The stone did make it to the USA somehow, probably through an underground purchase of some kind. The stone’s next fateful encounter with reality came when it was flooded in an underground vault during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Imagine that. A $400 million dollar emerald flooded at the bottom of a vault in New Orleans.
Soon after this it was moved to Los Angeles, and was stolen from a locked vault in Los Angeles and held as collateral for loans or diamond sales. After this instance came a near fatal blood bath when the Bahia Emerald was at the center of a transaction gone wrong involving one Columbian family in the Nevada desert.
Then after this the stone was then promised to infamous ponzi-scheme convicted and now jailed multi-billionaire fraudster Bernie Madoff, but two days before the handover was supposed to happen, Madoff was arrested and sent to prison. Great timing huh? The ‘cursed stone’ has its name for a reason.
Another Billionaire, Larry Biegler wanted to sell the Emerald and was promising a 50% commission. On a $400 million dollar sale, that’s a $200 million dollar commission. The man, Jerry, who thought he could sell it took a crack at it. Jerry actually had the ownership documents signed over to him in order to sell it. He was then showed the stone in a California vault. He describes it as…
“All the treasure movies you see on TV are nothing compared to walking in and seeing this in person.”
Another claimant who was found to try to rig the system was Mark Downie who, as another claimant was found not credible, and in 2011 a the California businessman, Tony Thomas stated he paid the Brazilian miners $60,000 for the Bahia right before it was stolen from him. There are several other parties in the rights case, including a group headed by jewel trader Kit Morrison who was in possession of the Bahia when it was seized by U.S. authorities when Morrison’s business partner attempted to sell it in Idaho.
The bahia emerald, massive gemstone has also been in the middle of dramatic encounters at a Sao Paolo car park, an abandoned gas station in San Jose, and it even popped up for sale on eBay for $75 million at one point. Other parties laying claim to the stone include: the Smithsonian in Washington, the Getty Museum, and the Brazilian government. None of which have any legal precedent to actually claim it. But they want to join the legal battle for whatever reason.
Now, for whatever reason the Bahia Emerald is currently being held at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and a L.A. judge rejected the bid from Downie, who was seeking to be named the legal owner of the 180,000 carat jewel (which is actually several emeralds geologically fused together, one the size of a man’s thigh). The next party was scheduled to be heard by the L.A. judge is the Brazilian government. That hearing was in January 2015.
Emerald is a gemstone and a variety of the mineral beryl (Be3Al2(SiO3)6) colored green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Colombia is by far the world’s largest producer of emeralds, constituting 50–95% of the world production, with Zambia being the world’s second largest producer. Emeralds, however, are found in nearly every country on Earth.
This emerald has caused death by wild animal attack, an almost fatal shooting in the Nevada desert. It’s been involved with multiple robberies, it’s been flooded in New Orleans, and it’s still ‘on the rocks’ as to who owns it or who has the true claim. The emerald is now valued at $925 million and has been in legal disputes for over a decade now with no end in sight.
While the Bahia Emerald is the largest emerald on earth. Colombia is the largest producer of Emeralds, but Zambia, Brazil and other countries have production of Emeralds also. In the United States the only area that Emeralds have really been unearthed is in North Carolina.
Remember the famous quote by Joseph Campbell..
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”