U.S. News

LA Trial Will Determine Owner of Gigantic Emerald

Crystal Kang, with AP|Special to CNBC.com
The 850-pound "Bahia Emerald"
Source: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

The case of who really owns the 840-pound Bahia emerald is headed to trial in September after a judge rejected a motion to dismiss a Northern California man's ownership claim.

"Just by the size of it, and because it’s one-of-a-kind in the world, it’s really a priceless piece," said Jimmy Zaitoun, owner of Jimmy's Jewelry in New York City's Diamond District.

An emerald of that size is unusual since the stone is soft and difficult to excavate in one piece, Zaitoun said.

Tony Thomas says he paid a Brazilian gem dealer $60,000 for the rock in 2001, only to be duped into believing it had been stolen before it could be delivered to his home.

The baseline price for an emerald of this size is around $5 million to $6 million, Zaitoun said. From there, the price can shoot up without limits. The Bahia emerald has been appraised for as much as $370 million, according to reports.

Since the Thomas purchase, several people have emerged to claim they are the true owners of Bahia, one of the largest emeralds on earth.

Some of them argued Friday that Thomas' claim should be denied because he never actually took possession of the rock.

After rejecting that argument, Superior Court Judge John A. Kronstadt scheduled a Sept. 8 trial to resolve the matter.