The trouble with treasure

An amateur diver says he's discovered tens of thousands of raw emeralds at the bottom of the ocean -- but it may be years before he can profit

(CBS News) A man walks into a sounds like the setup to a joke, but that's how this story begins. Amateur diver Jay Miscovich walks into a bar in Key West, Florida, is shown a treasure map and a shard of pottery by a diver friend, and then -- although he's almost broke -- buys the map, convinced there is treasure and fortune to be found deep in the Gulf waters off Florida. Three year later, there's certainly plenty of treasure -- Miscovich says he's discovered tens of thousands of emeralds -- but so far no fortune. Armen Keteyian reports.

The following script is from "The Trouble with Treasure" which originally aired on April 22, 2012. Armen Keteyian is the correspondent. Andrew Metz, Len Tepper and Oriana Zill de Granados, producers.

Last year, we got wind of a story that seemed -- on the surface -- too good to be true. An amateur diver and part-time treasure hunter had made one of the largest discoveries of sunken treasure in history: a sea bed covered in raw emeralds off the coast of Key West, Florida.

We were able to track him down at his home in Pennsylvania. He's an unassuming real estate investor by the name of Jay Miscovich.

He poured out a laundry basket full of emeralds before our eyes and said he believed they were worth hundreds of millions of dollars and likely came from an ancient shipwreck. What's more, he said, Wall Street investors were backing him and the Smithsonian was buzzing.

We set out to get to the bottom of the story only to discover just like those pirate tales of old, there's trouble, lots of trouble with treasure.

Our search began on dry land, on Madison Avenue to be exact, at one of New York City's high-end jewelry stores.

[Armen Keteyian: Look at that!]

Jay Miscovich showed off a sample of his find.

Jay Miscovich: We've brought up over 80 pounds so far. This-- you are seeing probably 30 pounds of it here.

Greg Kwiat: That is an impressive pile.

Ed Peterson: Holy cow.

Armen Keteyian: Any question on the authenticity of these stones, at all?

Ed Peterson: No. No this is the real McCoy.

Gemologist Ed Peterson and owner Greg Kwiat could hardly believe their eyes.

Greg Kwiat: I think this piece could go to the Oscars.

Armen Keteyian: Is it possible to put a price on something like that?

Greg Kwiat: We're only halfway through the first case. The question will be what the provenance is. If it is something exciting or sexy, it could add a lot of value to the stone. It could double or triple the value of the emeralds themselves.

The provenance -- the origin -- that Miscovich had hoped for was emeralds from an ancient shipwreck, adding potentially tens of millions of dollars to the value. But he had no proof so gem specialists couldn't put an age or price on the gems.

Jay Miscovich: You know, I don't claim to be a gemologist. I mean, I knew what I knew about emeralds is they were green and they-- the good ones came from Colombia. That's about all I knew.

To help, we enlisted Tom Moses here at the Gemological Institute of America.

Tom Moses: What this tells us it's another piece of the puzzle that indicates that the emeralds originate from Colombia.