Emerald Sources of Brazil
October 31, 2013
Sergio Martins, Stone World
Mining AreasThe mines in the state of Bahia were among Brazil’s first emerald-producing locations, dating back to the 1960s. They continue to supply large quantities of emerald to the global market. In Bahia, there is a large production of carving, cabochon, bead, and commercial-quality facet-grade material.
In the state of Goiás, the area near the town of Santa Terezinha de Goiás has yielded large quantities of emerald, primarily in smaller crystal sizes.
The mining areas near Itabira and Nova Era in the state of Minas Gerais generate the most consistent and highest-quality supply of Brazilian emeralds. Itabira is the more stable producer, while Nova Era is known for very large emerald crystals. Montebello is one of the largest and most sophisticated mines in Nova Era. Belmont is a modern operation and an important global supplier on a steady basis. The Belmont mine often cuts its own better-quality emeralds, moving it up the value chain into cut goods. Between Belmont and Nova Era mines lies a newer mine, Piteiras. Though currently closed, it could be reopened and become an important source.
In addition to the established emerald mining areas, new production has started in the state of Rio Grande do Norte under the colored stone mine-to-market legend Lorenzo Yih.
Mining MethodsBrazilian emeralds are extracted by mechanized mines such as Belmont, which use the most sophisticated techniques, and by cooperatives of independent miners, financed by investors. These independent miners, known as garimpeiros, use unsophisticated methods to recover gemstones or other minerals such as gold. They perform hard manual labor in search of the treasure that will change their lives.
Andrew Lucas is manager of field gemology for content strategy at GIA Carlsbad.
The author would like to thank Sergio Martins of Stone World for sharing his years of experience in the Brazilian emerald industry during interviews at his office in São Paulo. The author also thanks the IBGM of Brazil and the Belmont mine.