Wealth (usually) comes to those who work for it. Still, most of us would rather not think about it that way. After all, it’s so much more satisfying to dream about stumbling upon a briefcase containing millions of dollars while poking around the alley next door! And while that remains a fantasy for most of us, for one Brazilian man, it wasn’t too far from reality.
The man had been working in a mineral-rich mine in Bahia, Brazil, when, a few hundred feet underground, he found something he didn’t expect: a treasure! But while the discovery had him jumping with glee, he soon realized that the trouble and consequences that followed would be costly…
In the summer of 2017, a 50-year-old father of one—identified only by the initials FG—made a startling discovery. He’d been working in a Brazilian mine about 656 feet underground when he happened upon something that would change his life forever.
This mine, to be more specific, was the Carnaiba mine in Bahia, Brazil, and it was known for being particularly gem-rich. FG, along with his employer, the Bahia Mineral Cooperative, had legal authority to mine in the region.
For those reasons, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise when FG made his discovery, tucked away in a wall of mica schist at the end of the mine’s intricate tunnel system. But the find was just that impressive…
Hidden in in the rocks was a gemstone laced with emerald beryls. The entirety of the gem stone weighed 794 pounds, as FG would later find out, and it stood just over four feet tall. The thing was massive—and impressive.
About the emeralds, FG said, “their quality is superb and by far the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve been in the industry for nearly 30 years.” In other words, this stone would make FG rich beyond his wildest dreams! But there were some complications…
For starters, as mentioned, FG’s find weighed a whopping 794 pounds. To put that into perspective, that’s about the size of two silverback gorillas or a little smaller than a fully grown race horse. In other words…
FG wasn’t able to lug that stone 656 feet back to the surface on his own. He was going to need help, but to invite help would be costly—literally. He could no longer consider himself the sole owner of the yet-to-be priced gemstone.
That was a sacrifice FG felt he could make, however. He explained the retrieval process this way: “Extracting the stone was extremely difficult. It took 10 of us more than a week to get it out because it was 200 meters down in the ground.”
The stone “was cut out of the area, where it was embedded, in one piece and all hands were needed to lift it to the mine shaft where it was raised to the surface by a winch” (like the one pictured). So, did that mean there now 11 people claiming ownership of this stone?
Instead of trying to work with 10 others to determine the gemstone’s fate, FG paid each helper, making himself the sole owner of the emeralds. But now for the (possibly) million-dollar question: how much was this thing actually worth?
FG couldn’t surmise an exact value for the emeralds. “Personally, I don’t know what the value of this piece is,” he said, “because it will be led by market demands.” But the experts ventured a few guesses…
While finding a gemstone that large is already rare, FG’s find was particularly rare because of “considerable size and the quality of its gigantic crystals.” So, how did that affect the price of this 800-pound stone?
Estimates suggested the stone would fetch a payday close to $319 million! To put that number into perspective, that’s the net worth of country singer Toby Kieth or famed basketball star Kobe Bryant. But would anyone pay that?
According to FG, he’d already fielded calls “from interested parties including potential buyers from Europe, Arab Emirates, America, India and China, who are keen to open negotiations.” The future payday, though, had serious consequences…
When your $319 million gemstone makes national news, it can put a bit of a target on your back. FG knew it—and it terrified him. He had to come up with a plan to protect the gemstone—and more importantly—his family.
With visions of gun-wielding Brazilian gangs blowing a hole in a wall to get his gemstone—as they’d done in another heist, seen here—FG kept his treasure under the watchful eye of armed guards for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He didn’t stop there, either.
FG took extreme measures to protect the stone’s location. “I can’t reveal anything about the whereabouts of the stone,” FG said, or “how it’s being kept and how much I paid for it.” FG even had the stone moved regularly between different secure locations. He took one more precaution, too…
FG’s use of a pseudonym was intentionally done in order to hide his real name. He also only spoke to the media through his lawyer (pictured). He didn’t want anyone tracking down him or his family to obtain the gemstone’s location. It was a wise move!
But despite the target on his back, FG didn’t rush in his decision-making. “For now,” he said, “I’m keeping the rock heavily guarded and out of sight until I reach a decision on whether to sell it or display it in museums here in Brazil.”
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