Florida

Treasure company worker finds a large emerald at shipwreck site off Key West

Mel Fisher was the treasure hunter made famous for his 16-year search for the Spanish galleon Atocha shipwreck. His mission led to the discovery of a $450 million mother lode in the waters off Key West.

He loved to call out, “Today’s the day!” as he and his crew headed out for yet another search.

And now, Monday was the day for a Fisher employee on a special hunting trip with others from the treasure. That’s when she discovered a large emerald.

“This one was so big I didn’t believe it at first when I looked in my hand,” said the finder, Megan McDowell, marketing and public relations director for Mel Fisher’s Treasures. “It was like winning the lottery. I was shaking like, is this real?”

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Employees of Mel Fisher’s Treasures search for treasure by sifting through sand taken off the ocean floor. Mel Fisher's Treasures

Estimated at two carats, the uncut emerald turned up as employees sifted through sand brought up from the ocean floor and onto the J.P. Magruder search vessel at the Atocha site, a spot the hunters call “Emerald City.”

McDowell, who lives in Key West, declined to say how much the emerald may be worth because she said it must be appraised first.

But she said it was a great way to start off Mel Fisher Days, an annual charitable event that honors the treasure hunter’s legacy. Fisher died in 1998.

Mel Fisher Days runs from Friday through Sunday, with a host of events and special tours available

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The emerald, which hasn’t yet been valued, was about two carats. Mel Fisher's Treasures

McDowell says the treasure company is convinced there are 70 pounds of emeralds still on the ocean floor at the site of the Atocha shipwreck.

One of the largest that the company ever found was an 887-carat emerald, she said.

Only company investors and employees are allowed to go on the at-sea treasure hunts.

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This close-up photo shows the two-carat emerald found in July 2019 by Mel Fisher’s Treasures off Key West Mel Fisher's Treasures

The Atocha site provided Fisher and his crew with so many emeralds at first, they would store them in whatever was close at hand - including peanut bottles.

“They would dump out the peanuts and fill them with it,” McDowell said.

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