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Buying an Emerald. What you should know before you make your purchase.

You don’t know what to buy and where to start, but you do know it has to be something special for that someone special in your life. Most times the confusion comes from not knowing some of the basics about the person you are buying for.

They say there is nothing in the world like a landscape of Emerald Green, take Ireland or as many know it, the Emerald Isle. The lush green landscape is used synonymously with an Emerald to tell people of its beautiful Green Color.

Egypt was the major source for Emeralds until the 16th Century, then the Spanish heard of the Emerald mines in South America. The Incas gave offerings of Emeralds to their gods, and tried to keep the mines a secret from the Spanish invaders. However, the Spanish did locate these mines and ship these rare and beautiful gemstones back to Europe. Today it is still one of the most desired of the green gemstones in the world, and flawless Emeralds can sometimes commend higher prices than flawless diamonds.

So what does impact the value of an Emerald? Color and Clarity are two of most important factors when looking at an Emerald.

Color. The most prized color for Emerald is a bluish Green to Green, with a strong Saturation and medium tone. Emeralds are a variety of Beryl; there are many other different varieties of Green Beryl that sometimes are called Emeralds incorrectly. A seller who is a gemologist will be able to make sure that you are purchasing an Emerald and not Green Beryl. Below are some of the trade terms you will hear when you are looking for an Emerald, as with all trade terms they are either over used or sometimes incorrectly used.

The term Colombian is used to describe the most valuable and rare color of Emerald, bluish green to green with strong or vivid saturation.

The term Zambian is used to describe Emeralds that have a darker and more bluish color than Colombian and usually have a greater clarity.

The term Sandawana is used to describe smaller brighter intense green Emeralds that originate in the Sandawana district.

The term Brazilian is used for Emeralds that are lighter in color and have a low saturation; you will see a lot of these available in jewelry stores.

The above terms can only be used as a guideline as it is possible to find higher quality Emeralds in Brazil or any of the other locations, however they are not as readily available in the quantity and quality of the Emeralds from Colombia. In your quest for your Emerald you might find your seller calling a bluish Green Emerald that comes from Brazil, a Colombian Emerald and that is incorrect.


Clarity in Emeralds have a greater propensity for inclusion than a lot of other gemstones that are sold or made into Jewelry, and flawless Emeralds are very rare and expensive. So do not be concerned if you are being shown Emeralds with inclusions, as they are very common. It is important that the inclusions in the Emerald you are looking at does not distract from its beauty to you. The industry and gemologists use the following clarity terms for Emerald inclusions; Slightly, Moderately or Heavily Included, these levels of inclusions characteristics can be best described as following


Lightly Include, Noticeable inclusions that are apparent to the unaided eye.

Moderately Included,
Obvious inclusions very apparent to the unaided eye

Heavily Include, Obvious and can have a negative effect on the appearance and durability


Treatments. It is important that you are aware of the treatments any gemstone has, but in particular Emeralds as they often have fracture filling or dying to make them more pleasing to the eye of the customer. In 1997, the Dateline TV Show produced a segment of their show on how established jewellers were selling fracture filled Emeralds to clients and not disclosing any treatments. Some of the confusion was due to jewellers not being gemologists and taking the word of their suppliers other times it was a case of the selling not disclosing the facts to the buyer. Since that time we have seen a greater push by regulators to have sellers fully disclose treatments.

Fracture Filling. is the most common treatment used on Emeralds and is achieved by using various oils in the fractures that reach the surface of the gemstone. Another method is to use resins, which are a more permanent way of filling fractures compared to oils that can evaporate or change color over time.

A seller who is a gemologist will be able to identify treatments to Emeralds for you. The majority of sellers will inform you of any treatment based on their knowledge, if your seller is a gemologist then you know they have the training and skill to be able to identify such treatments.

Emeralds will still be one of the most desired gemstones available today, and with the information above you will be able to make a better decision on who you purchase your Emerald from, what treatments it might have and know where the most valuable emeralds come from.


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Derek Parnell is a Graduate Gemologist (GIA) and can be contacted at Jewels by Truros a division of Truros Corporation.


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