Custody battle for giant emerald

The curious case of an enormous emerald weighing as much as a horse is destined for a Los Angeles courtroom as a judge tries to determine who owns it.

Dug up in Brazil in 2001 and tipping the scales at 840lb, the boulder-sized Bahia Emerald is one of the largest gems ever discovered.

Several people have laid claim to the hulking rock throughout the years, and a small army of lawyers will cram into a tiny courtroom where Superior Court Judge John A Kronstadt will review the case of the man who says he bought it first.

Tony Thomas has said he purchased the emerald from a Brazilian gem dealer for 60,000 US dollars (£38,000) shortly after it was excavated. Its worth has since been appraised at almost 400 million dollars (£255 million).

After he arranged to have it shipped home, Mr Thomas says he was tricked into believing the emerald was stolen so it could be sold to someone else for more money.

He says it vanished after he turned it over to people who were supposed to ship it to him and, now that it has been found, it should be returned to him.

The case will be weighed from the bench by Judge Kronstadt without a jury, and he will listen to oral arguments about Mr Thomas's claim.

Lawyers for other interested parties have argued the claim should be dismissed because the emerald was never delivered to Mr Thomas, but his lawyer says Mr Thomas did take possession of the emerald in Brazil before it disappeared. The judge will review other claims later.

After it vanished, the rock's journey became muddled. At one point, it wound up in a warehouse in New Orleans which was flooded during Hurricane Katrina.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department now has the emerald under lock and key.