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 the 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 the rocks was a gemstone laced with emerald beryls. The entirety of the gemstone 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 racehorse. In other words…
Joe Hogarty / flickr
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.
WION / YouTube
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.” So, did that mean there are 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.
Public Radio International
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.”
Whatever his decision, the stone would likely end up not as jewelry, but on display, because of the high quality of the gemstones. While we’re so accustomed to seeing rocks everywhere, we can often forget that they’re more special than they initially let on.
Take opals, for instance. They might not look like much at first glance, what with their unsightly, craggy exterior, but it’s their incredibly beautiful interior that makes them so desirable. Once you learn what makes them so special, you’ll wish you had your own…
This might seem like an ordinary rock you would find in any park or back yard, but when you take a closer peek, its true nature begins to emerge. It’s no ordinary stone—it’s an opal! Though they’re nothing special on the outside, their interior reveals wonders…
Opals are basically an optical illusion. When gazing at the beautiful interior of a refined opal, what you’re looking at is essentially a naturally formed optical illusion. The reason is that light is actually unable to pass through the stone at all…
Instead, the light gets refracted by perfectly aligned tiny spheres of silica inside the gem. In turn, these spheres trick the human eye into seeing a bright spectrum of colors that change with every possible angle.
Opals are made from rain. While it’s never been officially concluded one way or the other, many experts have long believed that opals form after rain seeps into the tiny pores of the rock! But that’s not all…
This theory surmises that, after all the water that has made its way into the core of the rock finally evaporates, it leaves behind a kind of silica gel. And once that silica is completely dry, it hardens and transforms into an actual opal!
Opals come in a wide variety of different colors. Opals can reflect every single color of the rainbow, which lends to their popularity as jewelry. White opals are the most commonly found, while black ones are the rarest.
The majority of opals exist in Australia. Experts suggest that roughly 95 percent of the world’s opals are found here. They’re usually mined in the town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. It makes sense that the opal is the country’s national gemstone.
Ancient Romans saw opals as a sign of hope and good fortune. In 75 C.E. one unnamed Roman scholar admitted to being mesmerized by the gem’s colorful, kaleidoscopic effects. Also, he had some pretty loving words about the gem…
“Some opals carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others… simulate the flaming fire of burning sulfur and even the bright blaze of burning oil,” the scholar wrote.
Australian Aborigines recognized the importance of opals. It has been long written that the Aussie Aborigines believed the opal to be a sign of the “creator’s” touch. They also believed opals were created at the end of a rainbow to allow harmony on Earth.
Opals exist on other planets. That’s right—opal is one of only two gemstones that have ever been found away from the Earth! With looks so out of this world, it only makes sense that opals have been discovered in space. But where?
In 2008, NASA officially announced that it had detected opal deposits on the Red Planet. Many people believe this discovery is further evidence that the planet once sustained life, which makes sense since opals require water for their formation.
Opals appear throughout Greek mythology. Not only were the ancient Greeks convinced that the opal had innate prophetic powers, but they also believed they were formed from Zeus’s tears of joy after he defeated the Titans.
Opal is the birthstone of October babies. If you’re looking for a great gift to buy a friend born in October, look no further! Not only does the opal symbolize hope and purity in metaphysics, but it’s also commonly regarded as a protective stone, which makes sense when you think about how its rough exterior protects its beautiful inside.
You have to have a keen eye to be an opal miner. Opal miners need to be able to recognize the stone’s characteristic streaks of color, which indicate the presence of the precious gem concealed within. That’s no simple task in a dark mine!
Some people think opals are bad luck. Not everyone believes that opals represent positivity and hope. In the 1800s, some marketers in the gemstone world began claiming the stones were actually bad luck. Nevertheless, the notion never really caught on.
Opals were important to a prominent figure in British royal history. Queen Victoria admitted her favorite gemstone was the opal. And that’s saying a lot for a woman who had the most expensive diamonds, rubies, and sapphires at her disposal!
Now, the next time you see that pile of rocks on the ground, you’ll realize you should probably take a closer look. Who knows? One of them might actually be a precious stone!