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The 400 Million Dollar Emerald Facts

Photo: Emeralds on an emerald broker's tray

Emeralds on an emerald broker's tray (View larger version)

Photo by NGT

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  • The "Bahia Emerald" was unearthed in 2001 in Brazil. It weighs 840 pounds and contains roughly 180,000 carats of emerald crystals, making it one of the largest emerald specimens ever found.

  • In 2005, the Bahia Emerald was stored in an underground vault in New Orleans so that a prospective buyer could view it. After Hurricane Katrina hit the city, the emerald spent months underwater.

  • The Bahia has been appraised at $392 million. If at all accurate, this number represents its value as a unique specimen, and not a market valuation of its emerald crystals, which are not of a high grade.

  • A whopping eight individuals laid claim to the Bahia when it reached the California judicial system. All parties have negotiated settlements with the exception of one - Anthony Thomas, who claims to have purchased it in 2001 for the sum of sixty thousand dollars.

  • Mr. Thomas has no legal paperwork to support his claim. He contends that is because of a fire that burned down his house (and the supposed bill of sale within) - a fire, he alleges, that was set by one of the other claimants to the Bahia.

  • Legal possession of the Bahia has changed hands several times. In one such instance, it was used as collateral for a cache of diamonds that failed to materialize. The owner of the diamonds claimed that he had been kidnapped by the Brazilian mafia, held hostage in an RV, and driven around Nevada for two weeks.

  • The Bahia Emerald was once listed on eBay with a "buy it now" price of $75 million.

  • The finest emeralds are worth much more than diamonds; this is due primarily to their relative rarity.

  • Emeralds have been mined since the time of the Egyptians, dating back to at least 330 BC. Cleopatra had a passion for emeralds and wore them in her royal adornments.

  • In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors discovered and overtook the emerald mines in present-day Colombia. It took them fifty years, however, to overpower the Muzo Indians who occupied the area and refused to reveal the sources of their mines to the greedy Spanish, even under torture.

  • Legends claimed that emeralds had power to cure diseases such as cholera and malaria and to make the wearer quick-witted and intelligent.

  • The Spanish became the world's dominant emerald traders. Their emeralds from Colombian mines became popular in Asia, and are featured in the crown jewels of Iran.

  • Emeralds are less dense than diamonds. This means that a one-carat emerald is larger a one-carat diamond.

  • Emeralds can be created artificially. These synthetics are extremely difficult to distinguish from their "natural" brethren without laboratory testing.

  • About emeralds, Pliny said, "No stone has a color that is more delightful to the eye, for, whereas the sight fixes itself with avidity upon the green grass and the foliage of the trees, we have all the more pleasure in looking upon the emerald, there being no gem in existence more intense than this." Following Pliny's advice, the Roman Emperor, Nero, watched gladiator fights through emerald-encrusted sunglasses.
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