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Conch Found Near Florida Keys Wreck Yields Emerald Treasure

September 10, 2002|From Reuters

KEY WEST, Fla. — 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.

The part-time wreck diver, who teaches elementary school in northern Florida but does not want to reveal his name, discovered the giant raw emerald while washing shells in a classroom laboratory.

"Out popped a 40.2-carat emerald," said Patrick Clyne, vice president at Key West-based salvage company Mel Fisher Enterprises.

"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 Sept. 6, 1622, about 30 miles off 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 said. "There were no emeralds listed on its cargo manifest."

There were no estimates for how much the emerald might be worth.

"The diver will get a nice bonus for his find and his honesty," Clyne said.

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