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Trial begins in tussle over giant emerald

September 25, 2010 | 11:14 am

Bahia Emerald

The 840-pound emerald became his, Anthony Thomas says, when he forked over $60,000 to a pair of Brazilian miners back in 2001.

He may never have physically received the behemoth, but the proof was on a piece of paper filled out at a hotel party, since destroyed in a house fire. He didn't bother notarizing documents or memorializing agreements, the San Jose businessman says — that's just the way the Brazilians did business.

Nine years later, Thomas stands among at least half a dozen men claiming ownership of the giant stone, known as the Bahia Emerald. Thomas took the stand Friday in the first day of a trial over the gem, one of the largest of its kind, valued at one point at $372 million.

"Mr. Thomas is the only person who has ever paid a cent for the Bahia Emerald," his attorney, Jeffrey Baruh, told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John Kronstadt. The terms under which his client bought the stone were "very straightforward," he argued.

Attorneys for the others claiming ownership of the emerald contended that Thomas' story was ludicrous and inconsistent.

"His story is inherently unbelievable," attorney Steven Haney told the judge, saying that Thomas was simply trying to "throw his hat in the ring." Haney represents a man who footed the bill for the emerald to be shipped to the United States.

Read the full story here.

--Victoria Kim

Photo: Anthony Thomas poses with the stone in 2001, when he claims to have bought it. Handout photo.