The name emerald comes from the Greek “smaragdos” via the Old French “esmeralde”, and quite simply means “green stone”. Emeralds have the most beautiful, most intense and most radiant green of all of the stones. The lively luminosity of its colour makes the emerald a unique gemstone. However, really good quality is fairly rare, with inclusions often marring the evenness of the colour. Those inclusions are the signs of the turbulent genesis that has characterized this gemstone. Fine inclusions do not by any means diminish the high regard in which it is held. On the contrary: even with inclusions, an emerald in a deep, lively green still has a much higher value than an almost flawless emerald where the colour is paler. Affectionately and rather poetically, the specialists call the numerous crystal inclusions, cracks or fissures, which are typical of this gemstone, “jardin”. They regard the tender little green plants in the emerald garden as features of the identity of a gem that has grown naturally.
Emeralds from Zimbabwe are among the oldest gemstones anywhere in the world having started forming some 2,600 million years ago. From a chemical-mineralogical point of view, emerald is a beryllium-aluminium-silicate with a good hardness. Like the light blue aquamarine, the tender pink morganite, the golden heliodor and the pale green beryl, the emerald belongs to the large gemstone family of the beryls.
The colours do not occur until traces of some other elements are added. In the case of emerald, it is mainly traces of chromium and vanadium that are responsible for the fascinating colour. Normally, these elements are concentrated in quite different parts of the Earth’s crust to beryllium, so the emerald should not, strictly speaking, exist at all. But during intensive tectonic processes such as orogenesis, metamorphism, emergences and erosion of the land, these contrasting elements found each other and crystallized out to make one of the most beautiful gemstones. The tension involved in the geological conditions conducive to the above processes produced some minor flaws, and some major ones.
A glance through the microscope into the interior of an emerald tells something about the eventful genesis of the unique gem: small or large fissures; the sparkle of a mini-crystal or a small bubble and shapes of all kinds. While the crystal were still growing, some of these manifestations had the chance to “heal”, and thus the jagged three-phase inclusions typical of Columbian emeralds were formed: cavities filled with fluid which often also contain a small bubble of gas and some tiny crystals. Logically enough, a genesis as turbulent as that of the emerald impedes the undisturbed formation of large, flawless crystals. For this reason it is only seldom that a large emerald with good colour and good transparency is found.
It is in South America where the best emeralds are still found today. Columbian emeralds differ from emeralds from the other deposits in that they have an especially fine, shining emerald green unimpaired by any kind of bluish tint. The colour may vary slightly from find to find. Even if many of the best emeralds are undisputedly of Columbian origin, the “birthplace” of the stone is never an absolute guarantee of its immaculate quality. Brazil supplies rare emeralds cat’s eyes and extremely rare emeralds with a six-spoked star.
Whilst its good hardness protects the emeralds to a large extent from scratches, its brittleness and its many fissure can make cutting, setting and cleaning rather difficult, even for a skilled craftsman, firstly because of the high value of the raw crystals, and secondly because of the frequent inclusions. The clear design of the emerald cut, either a rectangular or square cut with its beveled corners, brings out the beauty of this valuable gemstone to the full, at the same time protecting it from mechanical strain.
Today many emeralds are enhanced with colourless oils or resins. This is a general trade practice, but it does have the consequence that these green treasures react very sensitively to inappropriate treatment. For example, they cannot be cleaned in an ultrasonic bath. The cutter during his work seals the fine pores in the surface of the gem and removing them will end up giving to the stone a matt appearance. For this reason, emeralds rings should always be taken off before the wearer puts his or her hands in water containing any cleansing agent.
Whilst diamonds generously scintillate their fire in sizes below 1 carat, emeralds do not really begin to show that beautiful glow below a certain size. Really large specimens of top-quality are extremely rare today. This means that the price of a top-quality emerald may be higher than that of a diamond of the same weight. At Damian By Mischelle our preferred source of emeralds is Colombia. For our discerning clients we can gather some of the finest examples of vibrant green, almost inclusion-free, untreated emeralds. However this are only available by special order and due to the rarity of this quality it may take many months to secure the ideal specimen. As always, anything is ultimately possible so contact us directly to discuss how we can fulfill your emerald dreams.