​​Amelia Research & Recovery, LLC

September 11, 2002

A school teacher and part-time diver has found a 40-carat emerald in a conch shell at the site of a wrecked Spanish galleon off the Florida coast.  The emerald, which could be worth millions, may have been aboard a vessel bound for Spain that was wrecked in a hurricane in 1622.

The teacher, who is trying to preserve his anonymity, found the emerald as he was cleaning conch shells in a classroom laboratory.  He had found the shells near the wreck of the Santa Margarita about 30 miles from the island of Key West.

Patrick Clyne, vice-president of Mel Fisher Enterprises, a wreck salvage company based in Key West, told Reuters: "It was one of those freak-of-nature things that somehow got swept up in the conch shell.  This is an excellent indication that the Margarita had raw emealds smuggled aboard the ship.  There were no emeralds listed on its cargo manifest."

The teacher, who works part-time for Amelia Research & Recovery, a company on Amelia Island sub-contracted by Mel Fisher Enterprises to search the remains, handed the emerald over to his employers but he will receive a "nice bonus for his finds and his honesty", according to a spokesman.  The company now hopes for more finds at the site.

While there were no immediate estimates of how much the emerald might be worth, a 77-carat emerald from a sister ship of the Santa Margarita was valued at $1.2m (£800,000) in 1985.

The wrecked galleons were part of a 28-ship fleet that left Havana in 1622 with a cargo of emeralds and gold from Colombia, silver from Mexico and Peru, and pearls from Venezuela.  Three of the ships were sunk by the hurricane.

​By Guardian Unlimited © Copyright Guardian Newspapers 2006
Published: 9/11/2002