CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

What Makes Colombian Emeralds So Special?

Emeralds have long been treasured for their verdant green hue, but a select few stand above the rest: Colombian emeralds. These unique gemstones come from a historic location and are among the most coveted gemstones in the world, but what makes Colombian emeralds so special? If you are curious to learn why the Colombian emerald is so revered among gemstone collectors, read on!
 

History of Colombian Emeralds

Untreated Colombian Emerald Ring by Fred Leighton, 5.94 Carats
Untreated Colombian Emerald Ring by Fred Leighton, 5.94 Carats
 
Colombian emeralds have a long history leading up to their popularity today. Hailing, of course, from what is today the country of Colombia, they were an essential resource for indigenous peoples in the region for centuries. The Muzo and Chivor emerald mines located in the central part of the country were in use as early as 500 AD, and the beautiful gemstones they produced were believed to have mystical properties.
 
The Muzo people attributed the existence of their emeralds to the legend of Fura and Tena, two immortal beings created by a god. Although specific details differ, all agree that the couple lost their immortality, but they were transformed into two mountain peaks upon their deaths. Fura’s tears became the emeralds that can be found surrounding the mountains, giving these stones a fascinating origin story to complement their stunning appearance. The names Fura and Tena were used in 1999 to honor two incredible emeralds found in the Muzo mines, one of which is considered one of the world's largest and most valuable emerald specimens.
 
When Spanish conquistadors infiltrated Colombia, they were infatuated with the vibrant green gems, and their popularity soon spread across Europe. During this period, emeralds were also believed to have healing qualities and the capability to cure various ailments, adding further value to these precious stones. Beloved by royalty and the incredibly wealthy, Colombian emeralds decorated the finest jewelry creations of the period and were desired by Spain’s many trading partners, including Turkey, India and Persia. Many pieces of rare vintage jewelry feature Colombian emeralds, as these gemstones have been known for centuries to be the best quality.
 

Characteristics of Colombian Emeralds

Emeralds are found in various locations around the world, including Madagascar, Israel, Russia, India, Zambia and Brazil. Each locale is known for different traits typically found in their emeralds, and gemologists are able to use different techniques to identify an emerald’s place of origin, such as examining the particular percentages of the elements chromium, vanadium and iron present, which, as discussed previously, impacts emerald color. Of all the countries where these stones can be found, Colombia above all is renowned for the beauty and richness of their emeralds and is historically the location of some of the most important emeralds ever discovered.
 
One of the defining characteristics of Colombian emeralds is their unique color. Free from the bluish tinges seen in other emeralds, Colombian emeralds are perfectly green. Colombian emeralds tend to have more trace amounts of chromium in relation to other emeralds, which typically gives them the pure, bright, saturated green so beloved in these timeless gemstones. Their impressive color stands out, as does their intense saturation. With their beautiful depth of color, Colombian emeralds can sometimes appear to glow. Colombian emeralds are also known for their exceptional clarity. Although the majority of emeralds are treated with oil, the best quality Colombian emeralds have only minor inclusions and are completely untreated. All of these characteristics combined are part of the reason Colombian emeralds have maintained their popularity over the centuries, as there truly is an exceptional quality to these stones that supports their claim to fame. Although other gemstone mines can produce high-quality emeralds, the Colombian mines are among the most highly respected by jewelry collectors around the world.
 

How are Colombian Emeralds Treated?

Untreated Colombian Emerald Ring, 4.17 Carats
Untreated Colombian Emerald Ring, 4.17 Carats

 
Treatment of emeralds generally includes oiling, which can improve their color and fill any imperfections in the stone. Because emeralds are relatively fragile stones in comparison to diamonds, their inclusions are often treated with oil. There are also different degrees of oiling used on emeralds, which are indicated by gemologists as ranging from minor to significant.
 
Albeit highly rare, untreated emeralds of exceptional color, clarity and overall quality do exist. Emeralds that possess a natural green radiance and are free from oiling are considered the highest quality and can command much higher prices because of their rarity and beauty. The stunning no oil emerald seen above is an example of the incredible color and clarity possible through natural means alone.
 

Jewelry With Colombian Emeralds

Jewelers who use Colombian emeralds are careful to emphasize the unique color of these amazing gemstones through the use of different metals and accent gemstones.
 

Tiffany & Co. Colombian Emerald and Diamond Ring
Tiffany & Co. Colombian Emerald and Diamond Ring

 
Colombian emeralds can be found in jewelry from the most esteemed makers, including Tiffany & Co, Cartier, Harry Winston and more. These important jewelry houses recognize the beauty and rarity of Colombian emeralds, including these rare gemstones in their renowned designs, like the Colombian emerald ring from Tiffany & Co. seen above. Many jewelry pieces with Colombian emeralds also feature white diamonds to emphasize the intensity of their color.
 
If you’re ready to add a piece of exceptional emerald jewelry to your collection, M.S. Rau offers a unique selection of pieces perfect for any occasion.

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