Emerald, undoubtedly the most popular green gemstone, is a coloured gem we love to use in our bespoke jewellery designs. We use the term “emerald green” to describe the richest most vibrant green colour. Emerald is part of “top three” coloured gemstone suite, along with ruby and sapphire. These highly coveted gems are prized for their beauty, exceptional colour and fascinating historical provenance. Emeralds are 20 times rarer than diamonds and their per carat price can be four times as great.
Emerald is the most popular member of the Beryl family – other varieties include aquamarine and morganite. Emerald is reasonably hard and measures 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. It is a brittle stone and care must be taken when wearing emerald jewellery, especially in ring settings. Emeralds can’t withstand the vibrations of ultrasonic jewellery cleaners so should be gently cleaned in warm water with a dash of mild liquid detergent, with a soft brush to eliminate scratching the setting.
Emeralds have been the preferred gemstone of many of history’s most beautiful and powerful women. Cleopatra was famous for her love of the verdant gems. The Egyptians were perhaps the first civilization to mine emeralds in Upper Egypt near the Red Sea, as far back as 3500 BC. With the discovery of the Colombian deposits by the Conquistadors during the 1500s (the indigenous Indians had been mining the Muzo emeralds as early as 500 AD) the superb quality gems became the rage with European courts. The infamous “Isabella Emerald” – a 964 carat emerald crystal – was in the end presented to the future wife of Hernan Cortez in exchange for a large dowry which funded his future voyages. Queen Isabella of Spain was furious that it wasn’t presented to her and always coveted the mystical gem.
Screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor had a tremendous passion for exotic gems and Richard Burton presented her with the iconic Bvlgari emerald and diamond necklace as a wedding gift in 1964 (as well as other treasures during the 1960s and 70s.) Contemporary actress Julianne Moore had the honour to be the first person to wear the necklace after Ms Taylor in 2013. Superstar Angelina Jolie made headlines wearing large emerald earrings to the Oscars in 2009. As you can see emeralds are strongly associated with power, beauty and fame.
Traditionally Colombian emeralds are the most prized on the market. Due to a natural phenomenon, the gems are produced hydrothermally due to huge surges in heat and pressure when two different rock types come together. They are coloured by chromium and vanadium and have the most gorgeous rich silky green colour.
In the 1920s a significant emerald deposit was discovered in Zambia, however mining didn’t become established until the 1970s. Many of the major jewellery houses now use the Zambian material. Generally the African material has more of a blue undertone (due to lower vanadium content) and the stones are generally less included than their South American cousins.
Even Australia is blessed with our own emerald deposit in Torrington, NSW. These very rare gems are unique, often with green and clear banding and truly are collector’s items. The deposit has long been exhausted which makes these stones even more covetable.
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