Emerald is the green variety of beryl (blue beryl is aquamarine, pink beryl is morganite). The most desirable color is a slightly bluish green in a medium dark tone with strong to vivid saturation. Emeralds are formed from two very rare substances, beryllium and chromium, that under normal circumstances are not found together. Only during the making of mountain ranges such as the Andes and the Himalayas, did two different continental plates come together and force the chromium found in ultramafic rock (which makes up much of the oceanic crust) to smash into newer igneous rock formations containing beryllium (which were formed on land by cooled molten magma), thus forming emerald crystals.
WHERE ARE EMERALDS FOUND?
The best gem quality emeralds are found in Colombia. Emeralds are also found in Afghanistan, Brazil, Pakistan, and Zambia.
EMERALD MEANING & ANCIENT LORE
- The name Emerald originated from the Greek word for green stone.
- The fable of “El Dorado” the Lost City of Gold was based upon an Incan settlement in the Manta Valley of Peru that contained vast quantities of emeralds, not gold.
- In the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain achieved global domination and then spectacularly lost their foothold, largely due to the market boom, then bust, in millions of carats of emeralds stolen from the New World (waging the Spanish Inquisition and other holy wars didn’t help matters).
- Emeralds are known as the stone of the heart because they symbolize mercy, compassion, and universal love. Emeralds are said to represent all the wonderful things in this world and how everything is interconnected by love.
BUYER’S GUIDE: EMERALDS
Color is the most important factor in establishing an emerald’s value. Emeralds are considered one of the “big four” gems along with diamonds, sapphires and rubies. The most desirable color is a slightly bluish green in a medium dark tone with strong to vivid saturation. The most-prized emeralds are highly transparent. Their color is evenly distributed, with no color zoning visible to the naked eye.
The squarish emerald cut is a classic for a reason. This style enhances the emerald’s natural color while minimizing waste.
Emeralds are especially difficult to cut. Almost all emeralds have significant fractures called fissures and minimizing the effect of fissures on finished stones is an important goal. Emeralds are more brittle than many gemstones – this makes them susceptible to damage in cutting, polishing and even every day wear. The emerald cut helps protect the stone by faceting the vulnerable corners and providing a relatively safe place for prongs. The cut must also maximize the effect of hue, tone and saturation in order to gain the most value for the emerald. An emerald’s color can be affected by adjusting the proportions and number of facets: a deep cut, small table and fewer facets will darken a pale stone whereas a shallow cut, large table and additional facets with lighten a dark stone.
Clarity is important, however, emeralds typically contain visible inclusions – these subtle defects are tolerated more in emeralds than virtually any other gemstone. Eye-clean emeralds are especially valuable because they’re so rare.
Emerald inclusions are often described as mossy or garden-like. This has earned them the nickname “jardin,” which is French for garden. A jardin can vary greatly from one emerald to another. Emeralds with fewer inclusions receive higher values. Colorless inclusions are preferred to colored or black inclusions. Flaws on the gem’s surface are undesirable as they may cause cracks and decrease the emerald’s wearability.
Due to inclusions and fractures, most emeralds have received treatments to improve their appearance. As a result, the GIA devised a scale to classify an emerald’s clarity enhancements. These may rank as minor, moderate, or significant. This factor will affect the emerald’s care. A stone that has undergone significant enhancement will lose some clarity over time. Thus, owners may need to have oils and resins reapplied to their emeralds from time to time. A top quality, unenhanced emerald (with certification) will cost much more than treated stones of the same size, color, and clarity.
Like most precious gemstones, the per carat price of fine quality emeralds escalates rapidly as you go up in carat weight.
CARE & CLEANING OF YOUR EMERALD JEWELRY
Emerald is rated a 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This makes emeralds suitable for every day wear. While we always recommend professional cleaning, emerald jewelry may be safely cleaned at home with warm soapy water and a soft brush. Click here for our step-by-step guide to cleaning jewelry at home.
Sources: GIA (Gemological Institute of America), IGS (International Gem Society) The Gemological Institute of America was established in 1931 and protects the public through gemological research, education, impartial gem identification and grading services, and instrument development.