Seeing Green: All About Emeralds

Rough Emerald
Want to see into the future? Be an eloquent speaker? Defeat spells and enchantments?
Such is the lore of the emerald.

The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating from at least 330 B.C. into the 1700s. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emerald, and used it in her royal adornments. Sixteenth-century Conquistadors discovered South American mines hidden by the Incas. A ready and exceptional supply of emeralds was suddenly available and Europeans fell in love with the bewitchingly beautiful gemstone.

Some 500 years later, emeralds are still enchanting us. Emerald is the birthstone for the month of May because its color symbolises the rebirth and renewal that comes with spring. Pantone named it the Colour of the Year for 2013 because of the “luxury and elegance (it brings) to the palette.”

Emeralds are formed when chromium, vanadium and iron are present in the mineral beryl. The varying presence of these three elements gives emerald its range of colour. Chromium and vanadium make an intense green colour. Iron gives the stone a bluish tint.

The most valuable emeralds are bluish-green to green and have a medium to medium-dark tone. Since emeralds typically form in six-sided prisms, they are naturally suited for, and often shaped into, the emerald cut.

Most emeralds have inclusions (internal clarity characteristics) and blemishes (surface clarity characteristics) that can be seen with the unaided eye. The size and types of inclusions greatly affect price: from $10 per carat for a small low-quality stone, to $50,000 per carat for an exceptionally clean stone.

Emeralds are mostly found in Colombia, Zambia, Brazil and Zimbabwe.

So how hot are emeralds? Harry Winston sold a pair of circular clip earrings with 6.91 ct. and 7.32 ct. round emeralds for a cool $218,000 in November 2012. Brooke Astor’s 22.74 ct. emerald engagement ring went for $1.2 million at a recent Sotheby’s auction.