A gemstone broker fished a dusty rock from a Tupperware dish at an Arizona mineral show and paid $10 for what his trained eye knew to be the world's largest star sapphire, valued at $2.28 million.
Roy Whetstine of Longview said he bought the sapphire at a rock and gemstone show last February in Tucson.
He came home with what he named the Life and Pride of America, a star sapphire weighing 1,905 carats in the rough that has been appraised at $2.28 million. The lavender-gray stone with hints of cornflower blue is about the size of a small potato.
"This is a real rags-to-riches story," said Longview jeweler Jim Griffin, Whetstine's agent for the stone's sale. "He came in and just flat-out said, 'Have you seen anything like this?'
"I pulled myself off the ground and pulled myself together. I recognized it immediately."
Whetstine, who has been a gemstone broker for 15 years, publicly revealed his bargain earlier this week.
Whetstine said he almost decided to skip the 10-day gem and mineral show, but on the exhibit's last day flew to Tucson to see his father, who had been ill.
He bypassed the section devoted to polished stones and instead burrowed through the shoe boxes and dishes of stones that amateurs offered for sale.
He said he spotted the potato-sized stone from the Emerald Creek area of Idaho among others in a Tupperware dish.
"I said, 'You want $15 for this rock?' and the guy says: 'Tell you what, I'll let you have it for $10. It's not as pretty as the others,' " Whetstine said.
Whetstine said he has no qualms about paying just $10 for the sapphire.
"When a man places a price on something he sells, that's what it's worth to him," he said.