Everyone knows and loves diamonds. They are by far the most popular gemstone in America and especially in the Midwest. I love diamonds too and sell a lot of them, but what really captures my interest and passion even more than diamonds are colored gemstones. There is so much to love about colored gems; their captivating colors, the unique ways in which they form inside the Earth, their rarity and simple beauty when set in fine custom jewelry. In this article we will learn a little about one of my most favorite gems; Emeralds.
Humanity has long been captivated by emeralds and its rich, green hues. Elevated by Incas & Aztecs as offerings to their gods, coveted by Mughal emperors for centuries, and fashionably worn by you and your neighbors, emerald remains one of the most popular colored gems available. Let’s take a look at what makes an emerald an emerald.
Emeralds belong to the Beryl gem species, named as such due to the presence of Beryllium in their crystal structure. Emerald’s green hues are due to the presence of chromium, iron and vanadium trace elements trapped within the Beryl crystal structure. The crystal structure of emerald causes it to be pleochroic, which means that the gem will exhibit a slightly different color depending on which orientation you view the gem. And on the Mohs hardness scale from 1-10, with 10 (diamond) being the hardest, emerald is a 7.5-8 hardness which makes it suitable for everyday wear in jewelry.
As an emerald crystal grows inside the earth’s crust, it is subject to extreme geological forces that can cause the crystal to do some very interesting things. One of the most unique and fascinating features of emeralds, common in emeralds sourced from Colombia, is the 3-Phase Inclusion. An inclusion in a gem is any visible feature inside the body of the gem, whether it is a crack, trapped rock particles, etc. In the case of emerald’s 3-phase inclusion, it is a tiny cavity inside the emerald that contains all 3 phases of matter: a liquid; usually water or petroleum filling the cavity, a gas bubble of CO2 floating around inside the liquid, and a tiny captured crystal also mobile in the liquid; usually a crystal of salt or calcite. A crystal within a crystal! Looking at these amazing 3-phase inclusions within an emerald under magnification is a true pleasure that always reminds me of the natural wonders hidden all around us.
Emerald deposits are found embedded in layers of hard rock, requiring a mechanized & labor-intensive mining process to extract the ore. The presence of the required elements and necessary geological conditions to form emerald crystals only occurs in a few spots on Earth, contributing to it’s rarity. The finest emeralds come from Colombia and Afghanistan, with Brazil, Zambia & Pakistan being other important sources. In Colombia, emerald deposits are found in belts along the Andes mountains, with the mining towns of Muzo, Chivor and Pauna producing the finest, most coveted emeralds in the world. The Panjshir valley in Afghanistan produces fine emeralds rivaling any from Colombia, but the political climate and treacherous terrain make mining there very expensive and difficult. Panjshir emeralds are more easily found in international markets than here in the United States.
Another important source to be aware of is man-made synthetic and imitation emeralds. There are processes today that can produce synthetic emeralds with the same chemical composition and crystal structure as a natural emerald. This is important to keep in mind when purchasing emeralds from un-vetted sources. Having a trusted jeweler/gemologist on your side is a valuable asset as we can distinguish between genuine natural emeralds and synthetic gems for you.
Evaluating Emeralds: How to look at emeralds
Now that you have learned a little about emeralds, you might want to go see one or look at your own emeralds in a different light. How do you know if the emerald you are looking at is a good one? There are several quality factors to consider when looking at an emerald.
First and foremost is color, color, color. The quality of the color is the most important thing when evaluating an emerald or ANY colored gemstone for that matter. From a market perspective, the most prized color in emeralds is a bluish green to green, with strong to vivid saturation and medium to medium-dark tone. The color is a vibrant green that fills the whole gemstone, the greenest green you have ever seen. A penetrating, intoxicating green that seems to glow beyond the surface of the gem. Color quality is always somewhat subjective, you may prefer a darker or lighter tone. The most important thing is that the color is vivid. One important thing to remember with emeralds is that almost all emeralds available on the market are usually treated with a light coating of special oil after the gem is cut and polished. This treatment helps the emerald show its depth of color.
Next consider the clarity of the emerald. When we look at the clarity or how clear the emerald is, remember that unlike diamond, emerald almost always has some visible inclusions inside the gem. It is extremely rare that a truly “eye-clean” emerald is found without any inclusions inside the crystal, and even the finest and most expensive emeralds at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions will usually have some minor inclusions. Inclusions aren’t a bad thing unless they are distracting to the eye or cause structural weakness in the gem. As a jeweler & gemologist, emerald inclusions also help us distinguish natural emeralds from synthetics and imitations, and as I mentioned earlier their distinctive 3-phase inclusions captivate the mind. In other words: emerald inclusions are “a feature, not a bug.”
The last thing to consider when evaluating an emerald is the cut quality of the gem. How well has it been cut and polished? Is it symmetrical and are the surfaces shiny and reflective? Are there abrasions on the facet edges or surfaces? With age and wear emeralds can show abrasions, however you can always bring your emeralds to your jeweler who can have the gem re-polished to look like new again.
Getting an emerald in Kansas City
There are fabulous emeralds available for you right here in Kansas City. I have spent countless hours studying emeralds and other gems, and have developed relationships with top emerald sources around the world. It would be my great pleasure to leverage my international network of gem dealers to bring you the most gorgeous emeralds you have ever seen.
Whether you collaborate with me or another jeweler, it is important to establish a relationship with your jeweler and see if they have a genuine passion for emeralds and colored gems. If so, then you should trust that jeweler to have your best interest in mind when sourcing emeralds for you. Your trusted jeweler is a powerful asset for you when buying emeralds, we will ensure you get the best possible gem for your budget. Shopping on your own for an emerald or any gem online is strongly discouraged and can lead to you losing a lot of money. Instead reach out to me or your favorite jeweler to show you some gorgeous emeralds, and get lost in the greenest green you have ever seen!