Facts and figures about Emeralds.
The name Emerald was derived from French "esmeraude” which in turn goes back via Latin to the Greek root "smaragdos”, meaning simply "green gemstone”. There are uncountable adventure stories involving this splendid gemstone. Even the ancient Incas and Aztecs in South America, where the best Emeralds are still being found today, worshipped it as a holy stone. However, probably the most ancient occurrences which were known are located near the Red Sea. These gemstone mines were already exploited by Egyptian Pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C., gained fame under he name of "Cleopatra’s Mines”, but had already run out when they were rediscovered.
Many centuries ago in the Veda, the ancient sacred writings of Hinduism, there was written down information on the valuable green gemstones and their healing power: ”Emeralds promise good luck”, or ”The Emerald enhances your well-being”. It does not come as a surprise, then, that the treasure chests of Indian Maharajas and Maharanis contained most wonderful Emeralds. One of the largest Emeralds in the world is the "Mogul Emerald”. It goes back to the year 1695, weighs 217.80 carats and is about 10 cm high. One side is inscribed with prayers, on the other side there are engraved opulent flower ornaments. The legendary Emerald was auctioned off at Christie’s of London for 2.2 million US dollars to an anonymous buyer.
Emeralds have been coveted ever
since ancient times. Some of the most famous Emeralds can
therefore be admired in museums and collections. For example,
The New York Museum of Natural History not only shows a cup
from pure Emerald which was owned by Emperor Jehingar, but
also a Colombian Emerald crystal weighing 632 carats. The
collection owned by the Bank of Bogota contains no less than
five valuable Emerald crystals weighing between 220 and 1796
carats. Also in the Irani State Treasure there are guarded
some wonderful Emeralds, among them the tiara of ex-Empress
Emerald green is the colour of
life and of eternally returning spring. For centuries,
however, it has also been the colour of beauty and of eternal
love. Even in ancient Rome green was the colour dedicated to
Venus, goddess of love and beauty. Today there are still many
cultures and religions where green holds a special position.
For example, green is the holy colour of Islam. All states of
the Arabian league sport green banners symbolising the unity
of their religion. But also within the Catholic church green
holds an important status, as among the liturgy colours green
is considered the most natural and elementary one.
Fingerprints of Nature:
The vivid brilliance of its colour
makes Emerald a unique gemstone indeed. But really good
qualities are rare, as inclusions will often spoil the
impression - traces of an active history of origin
characterising the gemstone. Fine inclusions, after all, do
not diminish the value; on the contrary. An Emerald of deep,
vivid green with inclusions will be valued higher than an
inclusion-free stone of paler colour. Almost endearingly,
experts call the many crystal inclusions or fissures which are
so typical for this gemstone a "jardin”. The tender green
plant-like structures in the Emerald garden are considered as
identifying characteristics of a naturally grown Emerald.
Where do they come from and why
are they acceptable? In order to answer this question we must
look back in history over 65 million years to the times when
Emeralds were created. From a chemical-mineralogical point of
view, Emeralds are beryllium aluminium silicates achieving the
good hardness of 7.5 to 8. Like blue Aquamarine, pale pink
Morganite, golden Heliodor and pale green Beryl, Emerald is
also a member the Beryl gemstone family. Pure Beryl is
colourless. Colours only exist when traces of certain elements
are added in the process. For Emerald, traces of chrome and
vanadium are mainly responsible for the fascinating colour.
These elements usually occur concentrated in the Earth crust
at completely different locations from beryllium, and
therefore Emeralds should not exist at all. However, in the
course of extreme tectonic processes these contrary elements
were brought together and created one of our most beautiful
crystals in the process of crystallising under enormous heat
and high pressure. Due to the tensions involved in the
geological conditions there occurred several smaller or larger
disturbances during creation. And a view inside the heart of
an Emerald, with a magnifying glass or a microscope, will tell
us something about the wild and vivid process of creating this
unique jewel: there may be smaller or larger fissures
recognisable, perhaps there will be a miniature crystal or a
small bubble within, and a variety of structures may be
discerned. Some of these phenomena had the time to heal out in
the growth phase and show the serrated three-phase-inclusions,
which are so typical for Colombian emeralds: cavities filled
with liquid, often containing also a small gas bubble and tiny
Obeying the laws of logic, such a
history of creation makes it virtually impossible for larger
crystals to grow without imperfections. Therefore, then, it is
a rare event indeed when a larger emerald of good colour and
good transparency is found. And this is why such fine Emeralds
are so valuable. But the very fact that Emeralds have a vivid
past mean that we like to see traces of this in the stone -
provided there is only a fine "jardin” apparent in the stone,
and not a wildly overgrown and untamed jungle of a garden,
which negatively effects colour and transparency.
Colombia is still the main country of occurrence for fine Emeralds. About 150 mining sites are known there, but not all of these are currently being exploited. The most famous names in this context are Muzo and Chivor, where even in pre-Colombian times the Incas mined Emeralds. The economically most important mine is Coscuez. Estimates ascribe about three quarters of the current Colombian emerald production to the about 60 locations belonging to the Coscuez mine. Colombian Emeralds are set apart from Emeralds of other origin by their especially fine and brilliant green which is not influenced by any bluish tinge. Depending on the place of occurrence, the colour of Emerald may vary. This fascinatingly beautiful colour is highly coveted in the international Emerald trade, so that even visible inclusions which can be discerned with the mere eye are acceptable. But Colombia has more to offer: from Colombian Emerald mines occasionally there come Emerald rarities on the market, like "Trapiche-emeralds” displaying a six-ray-star , or like the extremely rare Emerald Cat’s Eye.
Although undoubtedly the best and
finest qualities of emeralds are from Colombia, it would be
wrong to suppose that the "birthplace” of a stone
automatically guarantees immaculate quality. Fine emeralds are
also found in other countries such as the Zambia, Brazil,
Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan or Russia.
Mainly Zambia, Zimbabwe and Brazil have gained an
international reputation for fine Emeralds. From Zambia there
are exported excellent Emerald crystals in a beautiful, deep
emerald green showing good transparency. Their colour is
usually darker than that of Colombian stones and often has a
fine bluish undertone. From Zimbabwe’s famous Sandawana mines
there come usually smaller, but very fine Emeralds in a vivid
and deep green, often with a slight yellowish-green shade.
Brazil’s gemstone mine Nova Era at present even challenges the
famous Colombian Emerald mines: their production of Emeralds
in beautiful shades of green compete in their attractive
beauty with the gemstones offered by the neighbouring country.
Because of the occurrences found in Africa and Brazil,
Emeralds are fortunately available in larger amounts today
than in earlier times - much to the pleasure of their fans.
The good hardness may well protect
Emeralds from scratches to some extent, but its brittle
structure and the many fissures can make cutting, setting and
cleaning the stone somewhat problematic. Cutting Emeralds
always means a new challenge even for experienced cutters, on
the one hand because of the high value of the rough crystal
involved, on the other hand because of the frequent
inclusions. But this does not diminish their fascination with
the unique gemstone. They have developed a special cut,
especially for Emeralds: the so-called emerald-cut. The clear
design of the rectangular or square cut with its bevelled
edges underlines the beauty of the valuable gemstone
perfectly, while at the same time offering protection from
mechanical strain. Emeralds, however, are also cut in many
other, usually classical shapes. But if the raw material is
veined by a multitude of inclusions, it is often cut as softly
rounded cabochon or as Emerald pearls, which are especially
popular in India.
As Emerald is not only one of the
most beautiful gemstones, but also one of the most valuable
ones, there are unfortunately a multitude of syntheses and
imitations. How can you feel safe that you do not fall for one
of these impostors? The best strategy here is to buy your
gemstone from an expert of your trust. Especially larger
emeralds should only be purchased with an accompanying
certificate provided by a renowned gemmological institute,
where modern methods of analysis will be employed to assess a
stone and separate natural from synthetic Emeralds, and where
you will be informed about any treatments the stone was
subjected to that you should know about.
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