Custody Battle for 840-Pound Emerald Waged in LA Court

Several people claim to own one of the world's largest gemstones

The latest in the saga of the Bahia Emerald, an 840-pound gemstone is set to take place in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday to decide its fate.

Several people have laid claim to the stone in the nine years since it was dug up in Brazil in 2001. Multitudes of lawyers are expected to fill the courtroom where Judge John Kronstadt will review the case of Tony Thomas, a claimant who says he bought the emerald from Brazilian miners for $60,000.

The emerald, one of the largest gems ever discovered and estimated to be worth almost $400 million, has been around the block. Its journey has taken it thousands of miles and in some interesting places. At one point, the emerald was shipped to New Orleans and stored in a warehouse that was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. It has also been listed on eBay, for a Buy It Now price of only $75 million, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

If cut and polished, the stone would be 180,000 carats. Even Lady Gaga would have a difficult time wearing that many carats.

Thomas, claims that he arranged to have the gem shipped home, but said he was tricked into believing it was stolen in order for it to be sold for more money. Thomas says that the stone vanished after he turned it over to people that were supposed to ship it to him. Lawyers representing other parties with a claim on the emerald are challenging the validity of Thomas' claim, saying he never took possession of the stone. Kronstadt will hear other claims to the emerald at a later date.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the LA County Sheriff's Department discovered the Bahia Emerald last December while investigating a call from another claimant, Larry Biegler, who said that his giant emerald had been stolen out of a Los Angeles warehouse. The sheriff's lead investigator, Lt. Thomas Grubb, tracked the emerald to two men in Idaho who claimed that they rightfully owned the emerald for collateral on diamonds that they had bought from Biegler that he never delivered. They agreed to turn over the stone to authorities, who collected it from a storage facility in Las Vegas.

The LA County Sheriff's Department now has the gem in a vault until the true owner is determined.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
Contact Us