The luminescent, neon-blue tourmalines were originally discovered in the Brazilian state of Paraiba and were named after it. Decades later, a gemstone from the same family was discovered in Nigeria and Mozambique in Africa. That’s because these copper and manganese-colored gem deposits were separated millennia ago by continental drift. Paraiba gems first appeared on the market at the beginning of the 1980s, creating a stir with their stunning supercharged color and stunning appearance. They immediately joined the exclusive club of high-octane rarified gemstones such as Burmese rubies, Colombian emeralds, and Kashmir sapphires. Leon Mege’s award-winning Paraiba jewelry is highly regarded by industry experts, fashion critics, editors, curators, and bloggers as unique works of art. In 2015, Leon Mege was honored with the most prestigious jewelry award – the AGTA “Best Of The Show” for his Paraiba cab-and-French-cut diamond ring, which you can view here. Paraiba tourmalines come in many colors, including pale green, purple, and violet, among others. That said, the most sought-after ones are the Windex-colored, neon-blue Paraiba tourmalines. While an intense saturation level is an important feature of this gem, it comes in various tones, from light to medium dark.
Brazilian Paraiba is the most valuable tourmaline variety. The copper-bearing tourmaline from Africa is slightly less valuable. It is virtually indistinguishable from the Brazilian variety and equally beautiful. The great disparity between the value is the extreme rarity of Brazilian material. While the Brazilian mines are practically closed, with only a few occasional stones making their way to the market, the African mines still yield a measurable amount of Paraiba tourmalines. Once the African mines are exhausted, the price of African Paraiba will undoubtedly skyrocket, catching up to the astronomical prices of their Brazilian counterparts. That itself presents a great buying opportunity.
Since there is no other place in the world where similar stones exist, buying the African Paraiba tourmalines definitely makes sense. Unless you’re a professional gemologist, it is practically impossible to distinguish African and Brazilian gems because of the similarity in their chemical composition. The most respectable gem labs such as Gubelin or AGL can positively identify the stone’s origin based on a collection of observations and analytical data. The best samples from Nigeria or Mozambique show colors that are as vivid and saturated as stones from Brazil.
In 2006, at the International Gemstone Industry Laboratory Conference, the term “Paraiba tourmaline” was legally adopted as the name of the variety of the mineral known as cuprian elbaite, regardless of its geographic origin. This means that the copper and manganese-bearing tourmaline can be legally called “Paraiba Tourmaline” regardless of which locality it came from.
Its scarcity and neon color. The supply of gem-quality Paraiba tourmalines is finite, making them precious crystals with astronomical prices giving even the finest colored diamonds a tough competition. There are so few Paraibas in the world that only a single Paraiba is found for every 10,000 diamonds, making Brazilian Paraiba tourmalines so scarce that collectors and jewelry lovers literally hunt them down. The presence of copper in Paraiba tourmalines is what gives the gem its ethereal, radiant blue hue. To be called “Paraiba,” a stone must have some copper content. A spectroscope analysis can detect a general absorption starting at 600 nm. This marker is only present in copper-bearing tourmalines. Paraiba Tourmaline looks exceptionally well in bright light as well as in spaces with dim or poor lighting. Just like other tourmalines, Paraibas have 7-7.5 hardness making them well suited for jewelry wear. The issue is not their sturdiness but their high prices.
The color of the Paraiba tourmaline is the decisive factor in its value. It might come as a surprise that all Paraiba tourmalines are heated to release their color. Heat treatment is commonly used to enhance gemstones’ color. Other varieties of tourmaline such as rubellite and rubies, sapphires, tanzanites, beryls, zircons, and other gems are routinely heat treated. The heating is done using special equipment which gradually increases the temperature to about 500-700F over hours and sometimes, even days. Regular, high heat treatment leaves identification marks in the gemstone crystal structure, while low heat does not. Because of that, gemological labs are not certifying any heat treatment in Paraiba tourmaline. The general assumption is that all Paraibas are heat-treated, although the heating could naturally occur in theory.
Paraibas should be handled with respect due to their exclusivity, high cost, and their unbelievable magnificence. Paraiba tourmalines have the same sturdiness as any other tourmaline variety, so wearing Paraiba on your finger will eventually result in slight-to-moderate abrasion and minor chipping that could be polished off with some loss of weight. Due to that, the faceted stones, especially those of exceptional quality, are recommended for occasional wear or set into pendants, necklaces, and earrings – in other words, pieces where precious Paraiba is relatively safe from hard knocks a ring would sustain.
Who knows what awful things people do with their hands, but the signs of damage are often a testament to the daily abuse the ring has suffered. Cabs are much more practical when it comes to casual wear and are recommended for rings. Many translucent Paraiba cabs have natural inclusions of copper having a shimmering effect when the light hits them, resembling “aventurescence,” gemstone phenomena.
The glistening Paraiba cabs are stunning, lending themselves to unorthodox jewelry designs that stand out. Setting a Paraiba tourmaline into dark metals such as antiqued white gold or silver helps to accentuate its color. Paraiba could be combined with green, yellow, purple gemstones and, of course, looks stunning with white diamonds. Only the most experienced jewelers and setters should be allowed to touch the gem that routinely commands prices exceeding $100,000 per carat. Here is a look at Leon Mege’s work with Paraibas over the years. Leon Mege’s concept of “Affordable Couture” can help you become the proud owner of an exquisite gem that will not break your budget. We have many loose Paraiba tourmaline stones, both faceted and cabochons, to be mounted into handmade pieces that are uniquely yours. Leon Mege offers Paraibas of any origin: Brazil, Mozambique, or Nigeria.
The most valuable property of Paraiba is its color. The Paraiba tourmalines are cut to maximize the weight and preserve the volume. You should not expect perfect symmetry and ideal proportions from Paraiba. The color saturation and gem’s transparency are its most valuable properties, and that’s what you should focus on. The Paraiba is a “Type III” gem, meaning visible inclusions do not significantly affect its value. The color hue and saturation are much more important. Translucent and opaque Paraibas are usually fashioned into cabochons (cabs) – a button-like shape. The domes of Santorini churches in the sunset look like the island is encrusted with Paraiba cabs.
Paraiba tourmaline’s electrifying color gave birth to claims of its supernatural abilities to protect its owner against negative mental, spiritual, emotional, and even physical forces. Researchers at Leon Mege Paranormal Institute of Gemology (PIG) in Princeton, TX, recently discovered that wearing Paraiba will protect against a political opponent. Hillary Clinton allegedly refused to wear a Paraiba-set ring before the elections, claiming it does not work with her skin tone, and we know what happened next. Our PIG scientists are conducting human experiments testing a theory that Leon Mege mounting can intensify the protective power of Paraiba. Please let us know if you are willing to volunteer for the studies or perhaps donate your brain.
The chemical differences between the tourmalines from Brazil, Nigeria, and Mozambique are small. The traces of copper give Paraiba its unique color. Some Mozambique tourmalines are lighter because they have less copper. Brazilian Paraibas are more intense, while Mozambique has the widest ranges of Paraiba colors.”
Ruby is a red variety of the mineral corundum. All other colors, including pink, are called sapphires.
Rubies are by far the most precious gemstones that are stunning to behold, rarer than diamonds.
Ruby’s vivid color was frowned upon in the drab ’70s. Today red is a badge of solid personality, intellect, and success. Rubies are a true statement of personal style and sophistication.
The diamond market is controlled by De Beers Société Anonyme, manipulating the market supply and controlling the prices. Rubies do not have an international monopoly to lean on. Therefore, the perception that diamonds are rarer than rubies is not accurate.
Corundum crystals are found in nature in every color and even completely colorless. Sapphires and rubies are the same stones colored by different impurities.
Mohs’ Hardness: 9
Specific Gravity: 3.95-4.00 Sapphire; 3.97-4.05 Ruby
Chemical Composition: Al2O3 aluminum oxide
Refractive Index: 1.762–1.774 (0.008) Uniaxial negative
Crystal System: Hexagonal (trigonal); dipyramidal structure, barrel-shaped, tabloid-shaped
Rubies and pink sapphires are distinguished by the saturation of the red hue and the strength of blue and yellow undertones. Chromium, iron, or titanium impurities are responsible for most color variations.
Unheated gem rubies over 6 carats are exceptionally rare and command record prices. Burmese rubies are the rarest and most valuable. Top color stones from Madagascar, Tanzania, and Mozambique are beautiful but cannot compete with Burma rubies in terms of value.
Unlike diamonds, rubies are valued for their transparency. Occasional inclusion, even one you can see, is usually not a deal-breaker as long as the rest of the stone is crystal clear.
The price of a ruby is in direct relation to the rarity and quality of the stone.
Leon Mege, acting as your buying agent, will work directly with the most reputable gemstone dealers worldwide to guarantee the best value in the market.
The average 3-5 carat ruby ranges in price from hundreds of thousands to several hundreds of dollars per carat depending on its origin, treatment, color, clarity, and cut.
A top-color unheated Burma ruby can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars per carat at an auction. A heated ruby of the same size and color will cost tens of thousands per carat. A too light or too dark heated, poorly cut, heavily included ruby with tint will cost only a few hundred per carat. A reconstituted or glass-infused ruby fetches a few dollars per carat. Synthetic rubies and red spinel used as ruby substitutes in cheap jewelry are practically worthless.
Exceptional gems with a pure red color are known as “Pigeon Blood red” rubies. Aside from their distinct color, they are invariably stones of superior quality and are the most coveted gems.
“Pigeon Blood” a historic term used exclusively for the highest grade rubies from the Mogok mine in Burma (Myanmar).
Pigeon-blood rubies must have an intense, saturated, and uniform red color with vivid internal reflections. Their saturated red color without a hint of blue or brown is intensified by strong fluorescence caused by a lack of iron impurities.
Any treatment disqualifies a stone from being described as “pigeon blood red.” The stone must be a transparent crystal without eye-visible or dark inclusions.
The international trade in valuable Burmese rubies and jadeites was under political sanctions since 2003, aimed at applying pressure on the communist junta. The embargo banned all gemstone imports from Burma with one loophole – stones could be legally imported if polished outside of Burma, usually Thailand. In 2008 the Bush administration introduced legislation banning Burmese ruby and jadeite trade regardless of processing location.
With the normalization of relations between the US and Burma in 2012, the Treasury and State Departments announced that they were lifting sanctions on a range of Burmese products, but not ruby and jadeite. However, in August 2013, President Obama signed an executive order that renewed the ban on importing Burmese ruby and jadeite for another year. Finally, in October 2016, President Obama signed an executive order to lift all remaining Burma sanctions, including the Burmese ruby and jade ban.
However, after ten years of democratically elected governments, the military in Myanmar arrested the democratically elected government, declared a state of emergency, and handed all powers to the army chief.
In 2021 the Biden administration banned US companies from dealing with three Myanmar gem producers associated with the Burmese junta: Myanmar Ruby Enterprise, Myanmar Imperial Jade Co., and Cancri Gems and Jewellery Co. The sanctions did nothing to the Burmese junta supported by Chinese and Russians who keep buying ruby and jadeite at Myanmar government gem auctions.
Most of Myanmar’s Burmese rubies and sapphires are smuggled into Thailand to be cut and sold on the international market, and no embargo can change that.
For centuries before scientific tools for gem identification were invented, red spinels and rubies were often confused. For example, the famous Black Prince’s Ruby in the British crown turned out to be a spinel when custodians took it out during cleaning.
Spinel is a magnesium aluminum oxide, while ruby is aluminum oxide. In ancient times the red spinels came from Balascia or Badakhshan in Northern India, where the name “Balas Ruby” originates.
Called “Geneva rubies” and sold by an unknown merchant in 1880, they were the first known rubies produced by flame fusion. Twenty years later, Auguste Verneuil developed a special furnace for making synthetic rubies on a large scale. Most people do not realize that synthetic rubies can be that old. They are stunned to find out that grandma’s 100-year-old ruby is a worthless fake. Synthetic corundum is very cheap, easily identifiable, and never used in fine jewelry.
Injecting molten leaded glass under high pressure into heavily included rubys’ fractures turns nearly opaque stones transparent. The treatment is not permanent and can be easily damaged. Glass-infused rubies are brittle and have no value, but they look more natural than synthetics. Leaded glass is a toxic substance that can affect health.
Sapphires are among the most coveted gemstones that come in a rainbow of colors, presenting jewelry designers with endless possibilities.
Blue is the most common color of a sapphire. The word sapphire not preceded by color means it is blue.
Sapphires are multi-colored crystals of corundum with exception of the red variety called ruby.
The impurities give corundum its many colors: pink, orange, yellow, purple, green, black. The colorless corundum is called leukosapphire. Trace elements that contaminate a corundum crystal cause it to take a different hue. Iron turns sapphire blue, titanium yellow, and chromium purple.
It’s hard to believe that one of the most precious gems, the same metal used to make soda cans.
Sapphire’s essential properties are the color strength, color saturation, and purity of its dominant hue.
Both sapphire and corundum are the same things; corundum is a scientific name for the mineral; sapphire is the gemstone’s name.
Mohs’ Hardness: 9
Specific Gravity: 3.95-4.00 Sapphire
Chemical Composition: Al₂O₃ aluminum oxide
Refractive Index: 1.762–1.774 (0.008) Uniaxial negative
Crystal System: Hexagonal (trigonal); dipyramidal structure, barrel-shaped, tabloid-shaped
The sapphires got their name from the Latin word “sapphirus,” that Romans used for lapis lazuli, a blue marble-like gemstone.
Traditionally, the word “sapphire” alone describes blue-colored corundum. Fancy-colored sapphires have their name preceded by a specific hue, for example, “yellow sapphire.”
Phenomenal sapphires are valued on the strength of the phenomena rather than the strength of the dominant color. They are:
-color-change stones – usually blue to green or blue to purple.
-Stones with asterism (star sapphires)
-Gems with chatoyancy (cat’s eye)
It is impossible to tell the difference without examining the stone with a 10-x loupe. Experienced dealers are able to distinguish slight color variation to form an opinion, which is nothing more than an educated guess. Color zoning is a dead giveaway that the stone is unheated. In general heated and natural stones have exact same luster and brilliance.
Blue sapphire’s top colors are “Royal Blue” and “Cornflower Blue.”
Other valuable sapphire hues are pink, purple, orange, yellow, and green.
Brown and colorless sapphires are the least desirable.
The Padparadscha is an extremely rare color of sapphire. It has a mix of pink and orange hues. The most valuable are Kashmir sapphires with their mesmerizing cornflower-blue color.
Blue is the most valuable sapphire color overall.
Natural sapphires are much rarer than diamonds, but rubies and emeralds are even rarer than sapphires.
There are only a few locations that produce gem-quality sapphires. Most are heated to induce better color and to improve clarity. The rest are of low quality, heavily included, and not usable for jewelry.
Diamonds are found everywhere in the world, but the finest sapphires are found only in few places along the area stretched between modern-day’s Tajikistan and Nigeria.
The right conditions for corundum formation happened at 6–18 mile depth in the earth’s crust roughly 150 to 200 million years ago. Sapphires slowly crystallized out of cooling molten rocks and were carried to the surface by erupting volcanos, earth movement, and erosion. This happened along a narrow crescent-shaped corridor of prehistoric landmass called Gondwanaland. The continental drift tore the giant continent apart, splitting sapphire-rich regions between the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Africa.
The most valuable of all sapphires are the naturally occurring varieties, with no signs of artificial treatment. Sapphire origin has the most significant influence on price, more than the color grade. Each locale produces a distinct type of stone whose origin can be determined by its chemistry, inclusions, and hue. The scarcity of stones from a specific region means the price of the old material is not affected by new production at other locations.
Sapphire varieties in order of their value:
-Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
The finest sapphires hail from Kashmir of Led Zeppelin’s eponymous hit song. The mine is long exhausted from centuries of digging, so Kashmirs on the market come from vintage pieces. Kashmir sapphires are usually sold at auctions. All of the finest Burmese material in the world comes from a single mine that goes hundreds of feet deep and makes a weird curve underground. Another mine produces material that has to be enhanced by heating.
The finest specimens from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) can also be extremely valuable.
Less desirable stones come from Madagascar, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Thailand.
Collectors value pastel-colored Montana sapphires for their origin despite the drab appearance and bleak hues.
The rest of the world – Nigeria, Australia, Vietnam, Laos, Pakistan, Brazil, and Colombia produce an occasional gem, but mostly low-grade junk used in cheap jewelry.
Peachy-orange sapphires with creamy pink overtones are precious and rare. The word itself comes from Sanskrit and refers to the color of a lotus flower
The color is poetically described as amber, salmon, beer, and pink roses all in one.
As soon as sepia-colored Dorothy crash-landed into Munchkinland’s Technicolor, diamond reign began to crumble. The age of monochrome photos and black-and-white movies gave way to the world of brilliant colors on-screen, in life, and in jewelry. Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring (later re-gifted to Kate Middleton) was a turning point for sapphire acceptance as a legitimate diamond replacement for engagement. As a result, it took a tremendous marketing effort by DeBeers to prevent diamonds’ popularity from crashing.
Sapphires are popular with jewelers, collectors, and investors. While extremely hard and durable, sapphires get scratched and chipped when set in jewelry, rings in particular. Repolishing a stone will make it lose weight but regain a brand-new look. A halo or a diamond cluster is often used to protect a valuable sapphire from wear and tear.
Sapphires are less likely to suffer eventual damage mounted in necklaces or earrings.
Cabochons are practical for those who are less protective of their jewelry.
Sapphires were known to the Etruscans at least seven centuries before Jesus.
In the 13th century, Marco Polo described sapphires in great detail in his “Book of Marvels” while visiting the Island of Serendib (Sri Lanka).
Sapphire was a favorite gem of medieval royalty who believed a sapphire could protect them from harm, envy, and uprising. By the time of the Renaissance, sapphires were coveted by the wealthy and influential for their ability to prevent poverty and increase one’s IQ.
Sapphire is September’s birthstone and commemorates the 5th and 45th anniversary.
Only a handful of mines in the world produce sapphires of striking color and clarity that do not need to be treated. These gemstones are rare. They must be certified by a gem lab to have natural color.
Most rough sapphires come from the ground as translucent pebbles lacking any color. Heating such rocks to turn them into gems is an ancient practice widely accepted as non-detrimental to the stone’s nature. Depending on the heating temperatures and use of additives, the stone could be extremely valuable or nearly worthless.
Briefly subjecting a sapphire to mild heat to dissolve and reconstitute rutile inclusions is extremely common and does not make its color artificial. A forest fire or volcanic activity can have a similar effect.
Most sapphires were subjected to moderate heat, which does not change the crystal structure. This process is permanent and irreversible and has to be done only once.
Any naturally occurring red corundum is called a ruby. Red sapphire does not occur naturally. A red sapphire is a colorless corundum infused with beryllium under intense heat and pressure, turning it red.
A reputable gem lab certificate is the best way to learn about potential treatments.
Never rely solely on a gem dealer’s assurances.
Heavily included material can be heated several times in the presence of fluxing agents – borax, sodium carbonate, and sodium silicate. The chemicals do not alter the stone chemistry but interact with inclusions in the crystal, improving clarity and color.
A good example is the Geuda from Sri Lanka that looks like a dirty piece of marble before but becomes clear and transparent with a pleasant blue color after the treatment.
Coating colorless sapphires with titanium before subjecting them to a very high temperature produces an intense blue color. The penetration is usually shallow, so such stone cannot be recut without removing the colored layer and losing its color. This treatment is mainly used on faceted stones.
Lattice diffusion or bulk diffusion is achieved by using lower heat over an extended time. For example, adding naturally occurring chrysoberyl to the crucible produces beryllium vapors. Light yellow or pink sapphires infused with beryllium turn into padparadschas. Diffusion heating is not an acceptable treatment.
HT+P sapphires are heated at high temperatures under low pressure. As a result, these stones have durability issues. They require separate disclosure under the category of HP. The treatment must be disclosed to consumers using clear language, for example, “sapphire treated with heat and pressure.”
Any unheated sapphire should be accompanied by a certificate from a gem lab such as Gubelin, AGL, GRS, or SSEF.
Clarity and/or color enhanced by heat are categorized into the following grades:
– H – Enhanced by heat (no residues present)
– H(a) – Enhanced by heat – insignificant residues within fissures only.
– H(b) – Enhanced by heat – minor residues within fissures only
– H(c) – Transitional grade between H(b) and H(d). Residues of glass-like materials are present in cavities and/or in fissures. – H(d) – significant and deep-reaching residues present within fissures and cavities filled with lead glass (also known as “Composite Ruby”)
– H(Be) – Enhanced by heat and light elements (such as beryllium).
– PHT (HPHT) – Enhanced by pressure and high temperature (PHT).
– E – minor residues of foreign solid materials may be present within fissures and/or cavities.
Emerald is a green variety of beryl with its color having the richness and opulence of a blooming tropical forest.
A fine emerald is absolutely breathtaking; since antiquity, its color has been synonymous with the color green. Emerald is one of the four precious gemstones along with ruby, sapphire, and Paraiba.
Emeralds have always been associated with royalty.
Emeralds were Cleopatra’s favorite gemstone. In 1845, Prince Albert commissioned an emerald tiara for Queen Victoria featuring 19 pear-shaped emeralds, the largest weighing 15 carats. In 1911 Queen Mary wore an emerald choker that would later be given to Princess Diana as a wedding gift from Queen Elizabeth.
John F Kennedy picked a Van Cleef & Arpels emerald engagement ring to propose to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. In 2011 Elizabeth Taylor’s emerald necklace was sold for $6.5 million at auction.
Emeralds are extremely rare. Owing to their rarity, top-quality natural emeralds command a higher per-carat price than diamonds. But emerald is not the rarest beryl variety – that distinction goes to red beryl, which is called bixbite.
The bluish-green to pure green emeralds in medium to slightly dark tones are the most desirable. The strength, intensity, and even distribution of color are more important than the tone. The best emeralds have vivid saturation and high transparency.
The emerald inclusions should not be so overwhelming as to detract from its appearance. Fewer visible inclusions make the stone more valuable.
Areas of discoloration indicate potential crumbling of the surface. Emeralds with surface cracks extending more than a third of the stone’s length are vulnerable and prone to disintegration.
The choice of setting depends on whether it is a ring, earrings, or necklace. Wearing an emerald in a ring is more likely to damage the precious gemstone.
A halo or a cluster of diamonds surrounding an emerald will absorb the hard knocks and protect the stone.
For better protection, an emerald can be set in a bezel that wraps its girdle. Unfortunately, it is riskier to set an emerald in a bezel than with prongs.
Also, bezel-set stones are harder to clean or unset for repolishing without destroying the mounting.
For emeralds worn only occasionally or as pendants and earrings, regular prongs provide sufficient protection.
V-prongs do not offer any advantage when setting emeralds. It’s the opposite – setting an emerald tip into a V-prong carries more risk.
An emerald’s color often improves when it is set in yellow gold. Top-color stones are always set in platinum.
When setting rare and expensive emeralds, soft metals like 22K gold and pure platinum are used to make prongs.
Bixbite is an extremely rare and gorgeous variety of red-colored beryl. For every 150,000 gem-quality diamonds, only one red beryl is found. Gem connoisseurs love it, and it is marketed as Red Emerald.
Sometimes raspberry-colored beryl from Madagascar called Pezzottaite or “Raspberyl” is passed on as bixbite. Pezzottaite is also very rare but less valuable than bixbite.
Emeralds differ from inexpensive green beryl by their deep green color and intense saturation.
Emeralds and green beryls are the same species, along with aquamarine, heliodor, morganite, and bixbite. Pure colorless beryl is called Goshenite. The impurities cause various colors in beryl. Chromium and vanadium are responsible for the green color in emeralds, iron in blue aquamarines and golden beryls, and manganese in pink morganite and red bixbite.
Beryl crystals formed in hydrothermal veins from mineral solutions contaminated with impurities responsible for various beryl colors. Beryl is a cyclosilicate with the chemical composition Be3Al2 (SiO3)6.
Are emeralds treated?
Clear emerald crystals are highly prized among collectors and connoisseurs. Unfortunately, an emerald without visible inclusions that has not been treated with oil is a rarity. For centuries people used natural oil to infuse emeralds to conceal inclusions.
Oil is the most accepted emerald treatment. When used in small quantities, it has a minor effect on the stone price.
Using oil to fill fractures and cavities doesn’t change color. Oiling does not permanently alter an emerald’s look and can be removed or even evaporate over time.
Laboratories grade the presence of oil in emeralds as none, insignificant, minor, moderate, or significant. It is recommended to recertify an emerald at the time of the purchase to detect an oil treatment applied after a no-oil certificate was issued.
Emeralds’ internal features such as veils and wisps of natural imperfections have been romantically termed “jardin,” since they appear like an overgrown, verdant garden. Unlike with diamonds, where clarity is essential to the stone’s value, inclusions are expected in emeralds. The inclusions are formed by gases and other minerals trapped inside an emerald crystal during the crystallization process. Inclusions are often viewed as desirable features aiding in emerald identification.
Egyptians were already mining emeralds as early as 3500 BC. It was one of the four precious stones God gave to King Solomon, according to the Bible. Egypt was the only source until the 16th century when the conquest of South America by the murderous Spanish conquistadors led to emerald’s discovery in modern-day Colombia.
Emerald is a May birthstone, but it is also a Zodiac stone for people born between June 21st and July 22nd.
According to Indian folklore, the word emerald is derived from Sanskrit Marakata, meaning “the green of things that grow,” and the Persian word Smaragdus which means “green stone.” The Incas thought that emeralds foretell the future and reveal truth.
Emerald’s hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale is quite substantial. Unfortunately, emeralds contain a lot of minor fractures and inclusions, making them more vulnerable than other varieties of beryl, such as aquamarines and morganites. Emeralds are more susceptible to cracking if knocked against a hard surface or subjected to extreme temperature change.
Colombian Emeralds are the standard against which all other emeralds are usually compared. They are legendary for their deep color with just the right amount of blue and yellow. Colombian emeralds command higher prices than emeralds from any other localities.
Colombian emeralds were created millions of years ago during the formation of the Andes Mountains. The mineral-rich water seeping through the cracks between rock layers solidified into emerald-bearing veins.
Three primary mines have been operating in Colombia since the 1500s. The most famous is the Muzo mine, known to produce the finest, most prized emeralds in the world. The other two mines are Chivor, producing lighter, slightly more blueish material, and the Coscuez, with its warmer shade stones.
The other country producing fine quality emeralds in South America is Brazil.
African countries such as Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and Zambia all have emerald deposits, producing fairly decent stones but not ones as valuable as their Colombian equivalents. Zambia is the best source of African emeralds, where large deposits were discovered in the mid-1900s. African stones are darker and more bluish than South American emeralds.
High-quality emerald deposits were recently found in Ethiopia. The stones seemed to be clearer and more color-saturated than the Zambian emeralds. Although African emeralds are less fractured, they are still routinely treated with oil.
In L. Frank Baum’s book, published in 1900, all residents of the Emerald City were duped into thinking that the city is built of emeralds. They were required to wear green sunglasses, which they apparently never took off. In the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie, the city was recast as a sparkling metropolis built entirely out of emeralds to take advantage of Technicolor.
Emeralds are cleaned by gently brushing with a soft-bristled brush in warm, soapy water. Do not soak emeralds in any cleaning solutions, and never use an ultrasonic cleaner. If necessary, an emerald can be re-oiled.