A treasure salvage company owned by the family of legendary Key West salvor Mel Fisher has dropped its claim to a cache of emeralds purported to be worth hundreds of millions, saying the gemstones did not come from the Atocha or Santa Margarita wrecks made famous by the Fishers.
The news came on the heels of an examination of the emeralds Tuesday at the offices of attorney David Paul Horan by gemstone expert Manuel Marcial De Gomar of Emeralds International on Duval Street.
His verdict was that none of the contested gemstones came from Nuestra Señora de Atocha or the Santa Margarita, which Kim Fisher and the Fisher family company, Motivation Inc., has claimed.
"As we've said for over a year, if we can examine these gemstones and if we find they did not come from the Fisher sites, we would withdraw our claim and walk away," said Fisher attorney Gene Lewis. "It's a shame we couldn't do this eight months ago. We could have saved a lot of court time and money."
Jay Miscovich, the founder of treasure salvage company JTR Enterprises, brought the emeralds back to Key West from banks in Lake Worth and New York City under orders from U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King.
"This is not news to us," said Miscovich's attorney, Bruce Silverstein. "This is what we have been telling them since they filed their frivolous cause of action."
De Gomar has been the Fisher family's gem expert since the discovery of the Atocha. He said Friday the emeralds had not been in the water long enough to have come from the Fisher wrecks.
Once Miscovich and his company are free of legal entanglements, they can get down to the issues of origin and value, Silverstein said.
"Different individuals have given widely different assessments," he said. "Some have been pie-in-the-sky figures and others have been very low."
De Gomar declined to comment on their value.
"Determining their value was not my function Tuesday," said De Gomar. "My only function was to determine whether they came from the Atocha or the Santa Margarita."
Miscovich says he discovered the emeralds in January 2010 on the seafloor about 40 miles northeast of the Atocha and Margarita sites. He claimed on the April 22 edition of CBS news program "60 Minutes" that he bought an emerald map from an unnamed man at The Bull and Whistle Bar in Key West.
Miscovich did not return phone calls seeking comment.