Did you know that the world’s largest emerald weighs over 840 pounds? It’s true! The Bahia Emerald is a 180,000+ ct emerald, recently appraised for $400,000 million dollars.
This king of all emeralds has had quite a bizarre journey over the 14 year since its discovery in 2001—passed between gem traders, prominent real estate investors and even Bernie Madoff! It has spent time locked away in a vault 16 feet underwater after Hurricane Katrina, had a few run-in’s with the Brazilian mafia and even a short-lived listing on eBay (for a “buy it now” price of a mere 75 million dollars)!
There’s no question that the infamous emerald has been shrouded in mystery and misfortune, yet one of the most peculiar facts about this truly enchanting emerald remains—no one can figure out who it belongs to!
The Bahia Emerald was discovered in 2001 deep at the heart of the Brazilian rainforest in the state of Bahia, located in eastern Brazil. You may be surprised to hear that this now-infamous emerald was first sold for a mere $5,000 and then $20,000. Brazilian emeralds are not particularly well known as high-quality stones. The majority of emeralds mined in Brazil are cloudy with a number of impurities. Although the world’s top mines (in Columbia and Zambia) can sell emeralds for thousands of dollars per carat, the average emerald from Bahia is sold for less than $10 per carat. Nevertheless—the Bahia Emerald proved to be the exception to this rule, with its unprecedented size and quality.
The Mysterious Journey
After its discovery in 2001, the Bahia Emerald was flown to the United States where it spent a short time in San Jose, CA. In 2005 the Bahia Emerald was then moved to New Orleans, where it was stored in an underground vault so a prospective buyer could examine it. However, after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the city the Bahia Emerald spent several months 16 feet underwater due to flooding in the vault.
After it was recovered from the underground vault in New Orleans, the Bahia Emerald was brought back to San Jose and stored in an abandoned petrol station until April, 2008 when it was discovered once more and transferred to a private vault in South Elmonte, CA.
From that point the emerald’s exact storyline isn’t crystal clear, as it was off the grid for significant periods of time. That being said, the Bahia Emerald has popped up in a number of odd places over the years. According to recent articles by the New York Post and Bloomberg, the Bahia Emerald was also:
- involved in a $197 million bank transaction with Bernie Madoff
- part of several plots involving the Brazilian Mafia
- used as collateral for a cache of diamonds
- part of a deal gone wrong involving a well-known Columbian family in the Los Vegas desert that nearly ended in a blood bath battle
- part of an investor scheme
Where is the Bahia Emerald Today?
The Bahia Emerald is currently under lock and key at the Los Angeles sheriff’s department, while an unprecedented lawsuit for ownership of the emerald is underway in the Los Angeles Courts—with an astonishing eight individuals claiming ownership of the Bahia Emerald by the time it reached the Los Angeles Courts.
The Bahia Emerald court battle is one of the largest in California history, due in part to the heated international controversy involving the Brazilian government. The Brazilian government states that the Bahia Emerald is a national treasure and a vital part of Brazil’s scientific and cultural heritage. They claim that the Bahia Emerald was exported illegally to the United States in 2001 and are demanding the gemstone’s return.
Though this may seem like a lot of commotion over a rock, the fuss is certainly justified! Generally speaking, high-quality emeralds are worth more than most gemstones on the market—even diamonds! This is due to their scarcity, and less dense composition (when compared to other gemstones). A 1ct diamond for example, is smaller than a 1ct emerald. When you consider the mysterious past and current high-profile status—it’s no wonder that the Bahia Emerald is currently valued at 400 million dollars!
According to a recent report by the LA Times, custody of the Bahia Emerald is still undecided—despite the ongoing efforts of the Brazilian government. It’s clear that the Bahia Emerald’s thrilling tale is far from over, so what’s next for the king of all emeralds?