“Bahia Emerald” World’s Largest Emerald

The 400 Million Dollar Emerald

The 180,000-carat Bahia Emerald has been the subject of a contentious court battle between a colorful crowd of gem traders, miners and a real estate tycoon all vying for the prized jewel -- once valued at $372 million. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
The 180,000-carat Bahia Emerald has been the subject of a contentious court battle between a colorful crowd of gem traders, miners and a real estate tycoon all vying for the prized jewel — once valued at $372 million.
Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

Weight: 341 kg
Carats: Containing more than 180,000 carats
Location: Mine in Bahia, Brazil
Date: 2001

The 341 kg Bahia Emerald is one of the largest pieces of rough emerald in the world and was unearthed from a mine in Bahia, Brazil, in 2001. It is a hunk of host rock composed of around nine crystals. One of the nine crystals of the Bahia Emerald is said to be among the largest single emerald crystals ever discovered. The value of the Bahia Emerald is estimated at an incredible $372 ~ 400 million.

It narrowly escaped flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 during a period of storage in a warehouse in New Orleans. It was subsequently reported stolen in September 2008 from a secured vault in South El Monte in Los Angeles County, California. The stone has been valued at some $400 million, but the true value is unclear. At one point, the emerald was listed for sale on eBay for a “Buy It Now” price of $75 million.

It originally was mined in the beryl mines of north Bahia, Brazil, from which it takes its name. Bahia is an archaic form of Portuguese baía, meaning ‘bay’ after the bay first seen by European explorers in the 16th century.

After being moved from Brazil to the United States, various attempts were made to sell it without success. There were conflicting claims of ownership. Eventually the emerald was seized from a gem dealer in Las Vegas and taken into the custody of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. After a series of legal actions, Judge John A. Kronstadt of the Los Angeles County Superior Court announced in September 2010 that he would hear the case.

Anthony Thomas, among the claimants, claimed to have original ownership of the gem including claimants who have paid more than $1.3 million for the emerald. A trial date was set for January 21, 2013, in the Los Angeles County Court. On January 29, 2014, Judge Kronstadt issued a ruling rejecting the claims of Anthony Thomas, leaving the determination of the remaining claimants for a future trial. Mr. Thomas subsequently filed bankruptcy to discharge the costs and attorney fees he incurred in his failed attempt to claim the Bahia Emerald as his own. Mr. Thomas’ appeal from the ruling against him was later dismissed because Thomas failed to pursue the appeal in a timely fashion.

After a trial on March 30, 2015 in the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Honorable Michael Johnson, the judge who succeeded Judge Kronstadt in the civil case, entered a final order on June 23, 2015 determining and ruling that FM Holdings, LLC was the bona fide purchaser of the Bahia Emerald and that title to the Bahia Emerald is now held solely and exclusively by FM Holdings, LLC by a series of agency relationships and lawful transactions. All other claimants to the Bahia Emerald have either been previously dismissed, e.g., Tony Thomas, or settled their claims leaving FM Holdings, LLC, as the sole and exclusive owner of the Bahia Emerald by Judge Johnson’s June 23, 2015 ruling.

On June 25, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, on a request by the Department of Justice, issued a restraining order protecting the stone, arguing that it is subject to forfeiture in Brazil, where prosecutors in an upcoming criminal trial allege that two men knowingly received the stolen emerald and illegally smuggled it out of the country.

Photo

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Source: Los Angeles Sheriffs Department/Reuters

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From left, Scott Miller, Mark Gayman, and now retired Lt. Tom Grub, of the L.A. Sheriffs Department, in 2008. Source: Los Angeles Sheriffs Department

 

Reference:
Wikipedia: Bahia Emerald
Bloomberg:  The Long, Strange Saga of the 180,000-Carat Emerald
Telegraph: Judge to decide who owns £250 million Bahia emerald
CNN:  850-pound emerald at center of dispute

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