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Friday, October 1, 2010

Diamonds are Forever - the case of Bahia Emerald at California

The value of stones are generally determined by its connoisseurship, colour, cut, clarity and crystal. For counting a good or service, it is necessary to assign some value to it – which could be its inherent value or the price it would command.

One debate would go on for ever.. i.e., why should Gold be of higher value than water ? or what determines the price. In Economics, utility is a measure of relative satisfaction. Again the availability might decrease the value also. Again, the utility value of a particular commodity may not be the same with every use. Utility value of petrol, might be the same for a particular user for every litre consumed but the value of a litre of water when most thirsty and when nothing else is in sight might be far different than litres of water available. Utility is often modelled to be affected by consumption of various goods and services, possession of wealth and spending of leisure time.

In olden days, the prosperity of a Nation or territory was determined by the availability of natural resources. Prosperous places were rich. Now there are First World countries which are rich and developing countries which is an euphemism for poor. The rich countries have very advanced economies and human development indices. UN defines them based on Gross National Product, which is the market value of all goods and services produced in a year by labour and property supplied by its residents.
the gaping hole in Kimberly mine

From medieval times, a sudden spurt to richness is by exploring minerals – naturally occurring solid chemical substances that are formed through geological processes i.e., mining Gold, Diamond, emerald or other gem stones. What do with them is seldom the Question as they would have disproportionate market value. In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of face-centered cubic crystal structures. They are less stable than graphite but are very costly ones. The greatest trait of diamond is that it will not be contaminated. Emeralds are a variety of mineral beryl in green colour. Unlike diamonds, their toughness is classified as poor.

There were some patriotic mails in circulation which sought to increase the value of the Nation in leaps and bounds by attributing them to a change finding. The story read that a person by name G Vaidyaraj, perceived descendent of Krishnadeva Raya found out the value of 3 stones that were in their possession and were being worshipped for hundreds of years. One day when it was cleansed, the whole room was filled with light and then he discovered that they were diamonds of 4600 carats each ! Though he informed the Government, the news was kept under wraps for security reasons. They are so costly that many Nations could be bought with their value. The mails stated that the owner had gifted them to the Nation and the entire debt burden can be wiped, if they are sold.

Great, if only such things are really true. There was also another e mail in circulation which photos depicted an amazing diamond Mercedes reportedly belonging to Saudi Prince and reportedly worth $ 4.8M . This was dismissed as inaccurate as the shiny objects were only crystals and the vehicle was in fact an exhibit by luxury car accessories company – Garson during a auto show. 
         garson studded gear columnThere are also news of a giant Bahia emerald and the fight for ownership at California. It is reported in BBC that a California Judge is being asked to determine the ownership of the giant emerald, thought to be one of the largest of its kind. The Bahia emerald - named after the region of Brazil in which it was discovered - weighs 380kg (840lb). The giant emerald is embedded in stone and has protruding spurs the size of a human arm. It is said to be worth more than $370m (£235m) - and at least six people are claiming they are the rightful owners.
One those at the centre of this dispute is Anthony Thomas, a construction executive from California, who says he paid two Brazilian gem dealers $60,000 for the emerald shortly after it was unearthed nine years ago - a fraction of its current value. Mr Thomas says he arranged to have the stone shipped to his home in San Jose, but that it never showed up. He believes he was tricked into believing it had been stolen so it could be resold for more money. Mr Thomas is just one of those claiming ownership of the giant emerald. He adds that the receipt was destroyed in a fire. The emerald did eventually make it to America, although whose possession it has been in since then is a matter of some doubt.

It reportedly spent some time in a bank vault in New Orleans which was flooded during Hurricane Katrina and was underwater for sometime. Then it was taken to Las Vegas for inspection where it was seized by LA Sheriff’s department.   How much credence the Court would attach to the allegedly lost piece of paper filled out at a hotel party, which was not notarized even – but reportedly the way business occurs at some places in Brazil. Another group claims the stone become theirs through business deals. The Court is to hear the claim of Thomas first and then decide on further way ahead. Meantime, the giant stone sits in evidence locker of LA County Sheriff Department.

Judge Kronstadt is to listen to the oral arguments. It promises to be one of the most sought after cases in US. The hearing began on 24/9/10 and is to continue on Oct 26, 2010 at the Stanley Most Courthouse, Los Angeles, CA. That of the other claimant Mark Downie is to be heard on a separate date yet to be announced.

Diamonds are Forever was the fourth novel in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series published by Jonathan Cape in 1956. In 1971 it was adapted as the seventh spy film in Eon Productions James Bond Series – sixth and final film to star Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent – Bond, James Bond.

An interesting story though would never explain why water which has the highest of utility value costs much cheaper than objects which would never be of any use.

Regards – Sampathkumar S

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