A Rock in a Hard Place: How an 840-Pound Emerald Ended Up in Local Lockup

The 180,000-carat stone is stuck in limbo in an undisclosed area in the L.A. Sheriff’s Department
An 840-pound uncut emerald containing roughly 180,000 carats, valued at approximately $400 million, has been in the possession of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department since 2009. Today, eight individuals are fighting for the rights of the gemstone, which is known as the “Bahia Emerald,” and the nation of Brazil has also thrown its hat in the ring. The country claims the stone was illegally mined from its depths and belongs back home where it’s considered to be a national treasure. The behemoth rock has had a storied history, which began when it was first unearthed in 2001. It spent time submerged underwater after Hurricane Katrina, roused the ire of Brazilian Maffia bosses, was part of a banking transaction involving corporate crook Bernie Madoff, and has been involved in a series of Ocean’s 11-level heists at the hands of a handful of jewel thieves. It was recovered by L.A. County Sheriffs in Las Vegas after it was reported stolen. Now it sits in an undisclosed area in Los Angeles in the Sheriff Department’s custody until a trial determines its fate. We spoke to Mark A. Gayman, the detective on the case.  He wouldn’t give up the exact location of the ginormous gem but says it’s being housed in a vault on Sheriff property in a secured building with alarms and armed guards. “The exact value is unknown,” says Gayman. “but I would guess it’s worth a lot.” How did they physically move the weighty bauble? “We used a dolly to transport it from a vault in Las Vegas to a van. It took six detectives to hoist it into the van and another six back in L.A. to remove it from the vehicle,” says Gayman.  “It takes up a lot of space and it’s been stored for way too long,” he added. As for the emerald drawing admiration from local uniformed officers, Gayman says “everyone seems to just want a small stone from it.”  For the gumshoe, however, the gem holds no charm. “I think it’s kinda ugly looking,” he says.