After nine years, it's come down to two friends facing each other in a Los Angeles courtroom, each staking a claim on an 840-pound emerald.
San Jose's Ken Conetto, an experienced miner, had a handshake-agreement with the miners to split the proceeds from the discovery three ways. If only he'd gotten it in writing.
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 emerald then bounced around for several years like a hot potato:
- It vanished all together for awhile
- It sat in a garage in Brazil
- Was re-discovered in a Las Vegas vault
- Then shipped to San Jose to be used as collateral
- It showed up on eBay with a "buy it now" price of $75 million.
- It also spent some time sitting under grow-lights.
As for its worth: it's been appraised for as much as $925 million, and as little as $60,000.
Now, finally, a judge is set to rule on the proper owner. The hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8.
For his part, Conetto wants to donate a portion of the proceeds to hospitals. And the miners who originally found it? They want nothing to do with the rock. "They see this as symptomatic of why America is ill," Conetto's attorney told reporters.