A diver has discovered the treasure of a lifetime—a 40.2-carat emerald embedded in a conch shell—while diving at the site of a Spanish galleon wrecked in a Florida Keys hurricane 380 years ago, Reuters reported.
The part-time wreck diver, who teaches elementary school in northern Florida but does not want his name revealed, discovered the giant raw emerald while washing a bucket of shells in a classroom laboratory, Reuters reported.
“Out popped a 40.2-ct. emerald,” Patrick Clyne, vice president at Key West-based wreck salvage company Mel Fisher Enterprises, reportedly said on Monday, Sept. 9. “It was one of those freak-of-nature things that somehow got swept up in the conch shell.”
The diver had gathered the shells from a dive off the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita, which sank on Sept. 6, 1622, about 30 miles west of Key West, an island city at Florida’s southern tip.
“This is an excellent indication that the Margarita had raw emeralds smuggled aboard the ship,” Clyne reportedly said. “There were no emeralds listed on its cargo manifest.”
The diver works with Amelia Research & Recovery Co., a salvage company in Amelia Island, Fla., hired by Mel Fisher Enterprises to search the remains of the Santa Margarita, Reuters reported.
“This is a very, very important find. The emerald is worth a lot of money, but it’s the first found at the Margarita site, which means hopefully, there are many many more emeralds out there,” Doug Pope, Amelia Research & Recovery Co.’s CEO, reportedly said.
The stone, measuring one inch by 1.5 inches with a dark green center surrounded by lighter shades of green quartz, is believed to be from Colombia’s Nuzo Mines.
“The diver will get a nice bonus for his find and his honesty,” Clyne said.
There were no estimates for how much the emerald might be worth. But in 1985, a 77.7-carat emerald from the vessel Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a sister ship of the Santa Margarita, was appraised at $1.2 million.
The vessels were part of a 28-ship fleet that left Havana, Cuba, on Sept. 4, 1622, bound for Spain — laden with emeralds and gold from Colombia, silver from Mexico and Peru and pearls from Venezuela.
Two days later a hurricane overturned three of the vessels, scattering the ships’ debris and their treasure of gold, silver, jewelry and artifacts in a swath stretching from the Marquesas Keys to the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys.
Conch shells are home to a tough but edible conch mollusk found in the aquamarine waters off the Florida Keys.