Emeralds have been some of the most sought after and admired stones throughout history. Some consider them more precious than diamonds based on their scarcity and captivating beautiful green color.
When choosing an emerald the most important consideration by far, is color. This is one reason why Colombian emeralds particularly from the famous Muzo mine are much more highly prized over others. Their rich and superior green to bluish-green colors are unparalleled by emeralds from other sources. Colors can range from a jade like appearance to a pale yellow-green to a dark blue-green.
Colombia probably accounts for more than half the world’s annual billion dollar wholesale emerald market (about 3.4 million carats) because of the crystal size, quality, and color of its unprecedented emerald riches. Exports of Colombian emeralds have been worth around $130 million a year for the past five years, with India the leading buyer, followed by the United States and Thailand. The Muzo mine is the richest and most famous emerald mine in the world producing hundreds of millions of dollars of the world’s largest, best, most beautiful emeralds into the market every year.
EVALUATING AN EMERALD
The same basic characteristics of color, clarity, carat weight, and cut that determine diamond values also work for emeralds and other colored gemstones. But the emphasis is on different factors. With diamonds, unless you move all the way to fancy colored diamonds, the less color in the stone the better. With emeralds, it is exactly the opposite.
Color is everything. The purer and richer the emerald’s color, the more it costs. Emerald prices soar as the depth and saturation of color increases. The most desirable emeralds tend toward yellowish-green.
Of all the possible geometries the traditional emerald cut, a rectangular step cut, is the most popular. The emerald cut suits the hexagonal crystal and its refractive index, delivering a good yield as well as an attractive look. Unlike the facet arrangement on round brilliant cut diamonds, which are calculated for maximum reflection, emerald cuts emphasize the depth of color in gems. Rather than relying on facet reflections for impact, an emerald cut allows people to experience the gem’s richness by gazing into the crystal’s interior to explore the subtle depths of greens.
Colored stones take a leap in price if they weigh precisely an even carat or more. Large emeralds, which are rare, increase in price faster but more proportionately. As emerald weight doubles, price often quadruples. Eye-clean emeralds over three carats with good color command premium prices, often higher than comparable diamonds.
The GIA categorizes three clarity types for colored gems:
- Type I gemstones, “often virtually inclusion-free,” such as aquamarine, citrine, topaz, and green tourmaline.
- Type II gemstones, “usually included,” such as ruby, sapphire, garnet, peridot, amethyst, spinel, and zircon
- Type III gems, “almost always included,” such as emerald and red tourmaline.
As Type III gems, emeralds are the only major gemstone expected to have visible inclusions; in fact, any specimen without them is immediately suspect as a synthetic or an imitation. Still, inclusions do affect price. If all other factors are equal, the natural emerald with the fewest inclusions is the most valuable.
Are the internal characteristics that appear in gem crystals. They may be fractures, trapped liquids, growth lines, embedded crystals of other materials, gas, cavities, spots, specks, or a host of other microscopic occurrences that some consider flaws and others call beauty marks. Whatever your disposition, inclusions are a fact of life with emeralds.
Rather than viewing these features as flaws, one might follow the French example by thinking of them as jardin, a garden of inclusions that gives emeralds their visual character.
Emeralds are the most valuable members of the beryl family. The difference between green beryl and emerald is microscopic trace elements of chromium and vanadium that create distinguishing colors. Green beryls are almost the same as emeralds chemically, except they are typically colored by the presence of iron.