Treasure Hunter Discovers Thousands of Emeralds, But Lives the Life of a Pauper; Here’s Why

An amateur treasure hunter who’s recovered tens of thousands of uncut emeralds deep in the Gulf waters off Florida’s west coast, is living the life of a pauper – $10 million in debt, sleeping in a bunk bed in his friend’s spare room and years away from cashing in on the bounty.

This is the bizarre story of Jay Miscovich, a retired doctor and thrill seeker, who purchased a treasure map from a diver friend for $500 and eventually netted a treasure trove of more than 65,000 uncut emeralds said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His story was the subject of a segment on Sunday night’s installment of “60 Minutes.”

Armen Keteyian reported that, on the surface, the story seems too good to be true: amateur treasure hunter bags one of the largest discoveries of sunken treasure in history. But this is where the fairy tale starts to break down. Miscovich made his discovery in 2010 and since then has be embroiled in legal battles with investors, other treasure hunters and the U.S. government.

During the CBS segment, Miscovich poured out a laundry basket full of emeralds, about 30 pounds of the 80 pounds already recovered. Unfortunately for the treasure hunter, he may not sell a single specimen until the legal wrangling has been settled.

Although Miscovich believes the emeralds were from an ancient shipwreck, new evidence is pointing to a much different scenario. A company that was looking to market Miscovich’s emeralds sent a few dozen to Europe for special testing. They learned that some of the gems had been treated with a jeweler’s polish or epoxy, a technique first developed about 50 years ago to routinely enhance the brightness of emeralds.

Marine archeologist Duncan Mathewson told “60 Minutes” that some of Miscovich’s emeralds were scattered near the metal beams of a merchant ship that sunk during World War II. Mathewson researched the ship’s manifest, but emeralds weren’t listed as an official cargo.

Miscovich’s lawyer argued to a federal court judge in Key West that Miscovich should maintain temporary custody of everything he finds, but it could be years before the court awards full ownership.

With investor interest completely dried up, the treasure hunter is currently about $10 million in debt and is living in his dive partner’s spare room and sleeping in a kid-sized bunk bed with his feet hanging over the edge.

How’s that for an American rags-to-riches to rags story?

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