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September 6, 2015

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The enduring appeal of emeralds

FEATURING an intense and radiant green, emeralds have been widely coveted since they were discovered in Egypt 4,000 years ago.

Regarded as great symbols of wealth and power, they were Queen Cleopatra’s most treasured jewels. The gems were also worshipped by the Incas to such an extent that they filled their temples with emeralds as priests believed that their goddess loved the stones above all else.

Ian Harebottle, CEO of Gemfields, said the stones still have an almost magnetic power.

“In the 20th century, there were three types of women wearing emeralds: the royalty of the Old World, the wealthy of the New World and the stars of stage and screen — drawn by the flawless elegance and mystic symbolism of these special stones,” Harebottle said.

The good news is that emeralds are no longer the confine of royalty or celebrities. The gems are being embraced by the public and even the bridal market has seen a major increase in emerald sets purchased for weddings.

Harebottle said emeralds from different countries and mines have different predominant colors. The best emeralds have a naturally vivid green color that is evenly distributed throughout the stone, he said.

“Unlike other precious gemstones, impurities and inclusions in emerald crystals do not detract from the value of the gemstones. On the contrary, the inclusions are known as an emerald’s ‘jardin’ and are what give each stone its character and tells the story of its formation,” Harebottle said.

Gemologist and jewelry designer Paloma Sanchez, who searches mines around the world for stones, said natural emeralds have some inclusions that can even tell you where the emerald comes from.

“For example, in natural Colombian emeralds, there is a typical inclusion called ‘three phase’. Beware of the completely clean stones because there is no such a thing when it comes to relatively big sizes,” she added.

Sanchez said the value of colored gems is directly related to color. “Emeralds from Colombia, due to their very particular chemical composition, display the most beautiful deep bluish green. Colombian emerald miners believe this gemstone is ‘alive.’ When they sell emeralds they are very careful to do it at a certain time of the day — around 6 to 7am when the gemstones present their best colors.”

Of the fewer than 20 countries where fine emeralds have been found, the overwhelming majority of the world’s emeralds come from Colombia, Brazil and Zambia.

Gemfields’ Kagem emerald mine in Zambia accounts for 20 percent of global emerald production.

Harebottle said Zambia is quickly gaining the attention of jewelers.

“Colombia’s Muzo mine has provided the finest and largest emeralds in the world, but Zambian emeralds are fast catching up and are now considered among the finest, known for their clarity, which for an emerald is a very rare occurrence, and their bluish green hue due to slightly higher traces of iron,” he said.

Emeralds hold such a special fascination with designers because they symbolize a variety of notions including rebirth, growth, serenity, reflection, peace and nature itself. These themes are central to many designers’ works from fine jewelry brands like Boucheron and Cartier to independent designers.

“The broad range of their green hues and the rarity of emeralds also make them favorable for designers looking to create something spectacular and unique,” Harebottle said.

Sanchez said nature is the best designer and therefore she loves to keep the natural crystal shape of the stones in her creations.

“That is why my first emerald collection back five years ago all featured rough Colombian emeralds,” she said.

Sanchez added that emerald owners need to wear their jewelry with care.

“Be especially careful when cleaning emerald jewelry,” she said. “Most emeralds, because of the inclusions, are treated with oil as some cleaners would damage them. This is an accepted practice by the International Gemologist Association and it is not made to deceive when the oil is cedar oil. Never put your emerald jewelry inside an ultrasonic cleaner and avoid silver polish liquid.”


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