Treasure Hunters Battle Over a Trove of Emeralds

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Money is the simple answer. Because he has no legal rights to the site and because the case has been widely publicized, someone else could move in on the find. "It would be very easy to follow us out there," he says. "Once that happens, there will be a hundred boats out there by next week."

Miscovich has personally transported the emeralds from Florida back to Latrobe, where they're sitting today. He plans on selling off stones to pay for more attorneys' hours. Right now, Miscovich is shopping his stones in Europe and Japan, where the market is hotter for emeralds.

He's also filed an appeal of the January decision. The claims he dumped stones on the sea floor and concocted the whole thing — ridiculous, he says. A fraud that size would cost money — money he doesn't have.

Josh Lents, the New York City gem expert who's logged the most hours examining the stones over the past three years, analyzing all 150 pounds, laughs off a $50,000 valuation. The stones have been subjected to a battery of long-term testing, including x-ray fluorescence and infrared examinations. Lents estimates Miscovich still stands to make $10 million to $20 million.

"The branding and marketing of the material will be the most crucial element in fetching these numbers," Lents says. "If they were to just simply liquidate everything by selling it all in one shot to the highest bidder, they will cut into their potential profits by millions. If they add in another variable by telling the story behind it, well, you have something entirely different."

Despite that potential payday, the treasure hunter says the whole ordeal hasn't been worth the trouble. He has a recurring fantasy: He calls up the news crews, loads up all 150 pounds of emeralds, then points a boat for the Cayman Trench, 8,000 feet deep and unreachable to humans. With the cameras rolling, he tips the whole lot overboard, watching as the black sea swallows the glittering stones.

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Kyle Swenson