The story of the Bahia Emerald isn’t one of the women flaunting dazzling beaded jewelry, but of Las Vegas heists and near blood baths in the desert. It is the largest emerald stone ever found, and the single largest emerald crystal ever discovered in embedded in rock. It weighs 840 pounds. That’s about 1,900,000 carats. It’s worth about $400 million. Chump change, right?

After it was found in Brazil, it exchanged hands several times between gem and beaded jewelry custodians, until it wound up stored in New Orleans—at exactly the wrong time. During its short stay in a secure warehouse vault, Hurricane Katrina swept in and devastated the city. The Bahia Emerald was submerged with other beaded jewelry beneath 16 feet of water for two full months.


It was decided to move the Bahia Emerald back to California, and here’s where its history gets a little hazier than other famous beaded jewelry pieces. We know about certain incidents involving the Bahia Emerald, but we can’t be sure as to their exact timeline, or what exactly happened.

There has never been a successful, simple sale of the Bahia Emerald. Bernie Madoff attempted to purchase it for about $197,000,000 but was arrested before the deal closed. A well-known Columbian family also tried to purchase it, but the transaction went wrong and almost ended very violently. It brings to mind Hollywood scenes involving women in silk dresses and beaded jewelry, and stoic guards with big guns and slick suits!

Had enough Hollywood yet? The Bahia Emerald was reported stolen in a heist! Around Christmas of 2008, Lt. Grubb of the L.A.P.D. went on a mission to retrieve it, telling his team, “We’re going to stop on the way and get breakfast. We’re going to pick up a $400 million piece of evidence. On the way back, we’re not stopping.”

No criminal charges were ever placed and no arrests were ever made. The person who reported the Bahia Emerald as stolen in the first place quickly backed away from the case after his life was threatened.

Presently, the Bahia Emerald still lives with the Los Angeles sheriff’s department. There are a number of parties claiming ownership of the Bahia Emerald, including gem dealers and beaded jewelry merchants. Court battles are underway, but many people believe the judge could never come to a good decision since all those involved have dubious claims.

It’s unlikely the stone will ever be turned into beaded jewelry since its value lies in its size.

Photo Credit:

October 16, 2012 — Leslie Hedrick

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