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Gem expert pays visit to Worthington

RYAN MCGAUGHEY/DAILY GLOBE The 'El Gigante' emerald is displayed Wednesday at DaLon Diamonds in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- The adventures of the fictional explorer known as Indiana Jones have spanned four movies and a TV series.

Perhaps it's time for a Dallas Patterson franchise. Patterson, a gem expert who visited Worthington's DaLon Diamonds Wednesday -- and will be back at the business Friday and Saturday -- has probably led an adventurous-enough life.

Mining emeralds in Colombia and Brazil -- 99 percent of the world's emeralds come from those two nations, Patterson said -- is dangerous work, but there can be beautiful and valuable rewards. While in Worthington, he show off an emerald named "El Gigante," a specimen that weights 7 pounds, 5.5 ounces and is likely the largest piece of its kind in the world.

Patterson explained Wednesday how the emerald was mined in Colombia last year.

"My partner bought up an arrangement fee for this property to mine emeralds," he said. "It was also next to a coffee field. It was literally like finding a needle in a haystack -- they sat down and saw emeralds coming out. ... He got a hold of me, and knock on wood, one of our most trusted supervisors was there when it was mined.

"It's very dangerous work," Patterson went on about emerald mining. "In Colombia, when you have a piece like that, there all these eyes around you. Trusting people there is very hard to do -- people's bellies are usually empty and they'll do anything to put food in their stomach, and people are always offering a better deal. Life is very cheap there."

Patterson said that he's learned through his 31 years of experience that offering simple gifts can help retain critical loyalty.

"In some areas I'm called Santa Claus because I bring as much candy, bread and Swisher Sweets cigars I can," he said. "You can get more mileage out of a Swisher Sweet cigar than a $100 bill; what are you going to spend a $100 bill on the jungle?

"We treated that particular supervisor very well," Patterson added of the individual who notified him of the large emerald that became known as "El Gigante." "But that (mining) is just half the problem. The other half of the problem is getting it out of Colombia."

Ultimately, the family who owned the land on which the emerald was found got the gem through customs.

"It was done legally, but I don't even want to know how," Patterson said with a laugh.

Patterson noted that he has taken "El Gigante" and other emeralds on a national tour because of his love for educating people about their value, as well as how rare they are. And some rare emeralds carry exceptional value -- a 9-karat emerald recently sold through Christie's auction house for $90,000 per karat.

Patterson will be at DaLon Diamonds from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and already has several appointments scheduled while at the store.

To make an appointment to visit with Patterson during his visit, call 372-5510.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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