Hi Again, a lot of people were asking about the color of Emeralds from different locations. The following was from an earlier blog post and covers a lot of that territory. I would like to add as a preface to what follows that many great stones have come from locations that are not well thought of in general. Good stones can come from many mines. This is true of Emerald but also of Tourmaline, Sapphire, Ruby and so forth. While generalizations are possible, specific stones can go against the generalizations and be truly wonderful or simply different. Hope you enjoy the additional discussion…..JR
Gems At Large® Blog May 2012 John and Laura Ramsey
Emerald— the May birthstone
by John Ramsey for Gems At Large®
What is emerald—emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl. Emerald is vibrant green variety of beryl usually colored by Chromium. In other colors beryl has other names. The blue color for beryl is aquamarine. Pink and peach beryl is Morganite. Yellow and golden beryl is heliodor. Red beryl is Bixbite and so far has only been found in Utah. Colorless beryl is called Goshenite. Chemically, beryl is a Beryllium-Aluminum Silicate. As mentioned emerald gets its green color from Chromium. There has been an addition to “emerald” of green gems colored by Vanadium but the classic emerald look comes from Chromium rich beryl. Interestingly, the red in ruby is caused by Chromium as well. Emerald is a type 3 gemstone according to GIA terminology and therefore can be expected to have eye visible inclusions.
Where emerald comes from—a fair question that people ask is “where do emeralds come from.” In a later paragraph we will show you a lot of the countries of the world where emeralds have been found from time to time. However, the real question people have has to do with current production in commercial quantities. Right now South America seems to be the production king of emeralds. Colombia is now known as the source for the most coveted emeralds. The color of the best Colombian emeralds and the fine transparency of the crystals from Colombia make them the quality king. What is it about the color of Colombian emeralds that people love? Well, first we have to talk about the color green. Green is a secondary color. Secondary colors are made from primary colors. In the case of green the primary colors are blue and yellow. Green can tip towards more blue or more yellow. Grass green, for instance, has more yellow in it when compared with the more bluish green of a fir tree. In the case of Colombian emeralds, the slightly bluish green tends to be very pure and not complicated by any over-tones of other colors—blue + yellow + no additional overtones = a very beautiful Colombian emerald green. That being said even within the production of Colombian emeralds there are color and quality differences. From Chivor the emeralds are slightly more bluish green and from Muzo the emeralds are slightly more yellowish green. But taken as a whole Colombian emerald is slightly more bluish than emerald from Russia. Prior to the ascendency of Colombian emeralds to the pinnacle of desirability Russian stones were considered the best. There may be some debate over this issue still. That debate would occur primarily in Europe.
For the first 15 years or so of my career in gems Brazil was known for producing emeralds in the state of Bahia—generally very poor quality emeralds. Then in the 1980’s there were two discoveries of emerald in Brazil: Santa Terezinha, Goais and Nova Era, Minas Gerais. Interestingly both of these discoveries produced emeralds of startling beauty. Some of the best stones of Nova Era rivaled gems from Colombia—maybe not the finest from Colombia—but Nova Era gems can be beautiful. Santa Terezinha emeralds have distinctly more yellow than Colombian stones but have a uniquely undeniable beauty.
But let’s not leave out African gems. Zambia has produced lots and lots of large attractive gems. Usually in my experience though the Zambian stones have a color that is marred by overtones of gray. But the Zambian stones can be large and relatively clean and truly lovely in the better quality.
We traveled to an Emerald mine in Brazil with a group of people we were leading on a gem and mineral tour. The scene was straight out of a western in the 1850’s USA. A temporary “town” was set up along a rugged dirt road complete with bars, restaurants and general stores. Moto-cross motorcycles and 4 wheel-drive pickups had replaced horses and dark visqueen plastic replaced canvas to create tents but the people and their activities remained the same. Claims for miners were right next to each other. Many claims were in the little canyon we visited. With Emeralds being so valuable guns were everywhere and a bad accompaniment to the liquor sold in the bars. The day after our visit there was a shooting. No wonder that in Colombia there is a saying that the color of Emerald is red.
Where in the world is Emerald?
Emerald is a rare stone, especially in a good quality. However the following list is a list of places emerald has been found at one time or another. The extent of this list may qualify emerald as the rarest stone found in the most places. A good conundrum!
*Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
*Asia: Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Russia
*Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland
*South America: Brazil, Colombia
*North America: United States and Canada
We’ve all heard from time to time the term Price Point. Mostly this is a trade term used in business to business talk. People in many businesses try to “hit a price point.” It is a fact that it is possible to crank the cash register more frequently with more affordable items. Unfortunately in many cases this means cheapening a product until it really is not as good as we all might want. How many products have we all bought that seem like a great deal due to an attractive price only to regret the lack of quality—clothing that lasts only a wearing or two, a water faucet that lasts only a year or two, and on and on. I’ll bet that we could generate thousands of examples amongst ourselves. Our goal with Gems At Large® has always been to put quality ahead of price. Look at the difference between the two rings in the photos. The light weight flimsy looking ring is a stock photo of what we would call a “price-point” ring. The shank is so flimsy it is what we refer to as a dental floss shank—so light weight and flimsy that a good firm hand shake would seemingly bend it into a different shape. The nice looking other ring is a Gems At Large® ring. In the Gems At Large® ring quality was the first consideration. Of course in the Gems At Large® ring cost more—it didn’t hit a price point. It achieved what we, here at Gems At Large® have come to call a Quality Point™.
There are plenty of places to buy price point merchandise. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to find and enjoy Quality Point™ gems and jewelry. Our goal is to make quality available–as affordably as we can–with our years traveling the world seeking and finding world quality gems and jewelry.
Another word important here is “value.” Value is actually irrespective of price. An item of good value is one that is priced fairly for what it is. An item may have a low price and still be a poor value if it is not even worth the low price. On the other hand an item may be quite expensive and still be a good value—if it is worth the price paid.
Andalusite is strange and beautiful and really quite hard to find in larger sizes. Andalusite is notable for a very strong pleochroism with a different color associated with each of 3 different crystal axes. Note the different colors in the gems in the photo. Also note the rough, uncut gems in the background.
For a number of years, years ago, we had a wholesale client who was anxious to buy all the larger sizes of Andalusite we could supply. His demand lasted quite a while. What a wild around the world chase he started. That first year on a trip to Sri Lanka we found one very beautiful Andalusite cut gem that was very large at over ten carats. And then—no more Andalusite in Sri Lanka on subsequent trips.
Later that year on a trip to Brazil we encountered a fellow that had some rough Andalusite. He wasn’t officially in the gem business but his main business took him by some Andalusite mines in the state of Espiritu Santo. These mines were worked as side businesses by coffee growers. Their coffee plantations were very remote and nobody visited the growers and the growers didn’t visit anybody—except for Valdomir. Valdomir sold chemical fertilizer to the coffee growers and had to visit them regularly. He was their access to the world and the man who could bring their Andalusite to the market. For a few years back then Valdomir dominated the Andalusite business and we had an exclusive with Valdomir.
One of the best things about that quest for Andalusite was getting to know the state of Espiritu Santo. The capital of that state is Vitória. Vitória is one of the most beautiful settings you can imagine. The setting is a lot like Rio de Janeiro but without the city sprawl. There are the large inselbergs similar to Sugar Loaf and Mount Corcovado, a beautiful bay and relatively fewer people.
Well–Sapphire is not alone in having a cushion cut gem set records. On January 27th we wrote about the record setting cushion cut Ceylon Sapphire of just under 300 carats. This past November 12th a cushion cut ruby set a record price for a ruby. The ruby in question is known as the Graff Ruby. It sold for over $8.6 million USD. It was sold by the jeweler Graff to a collector who later put it up for sale. Graff bought the stone back again at auction saying more or less that it is the best ruby on the planet. So buying it made sense. This story brings up a great point. Truly great gems are rare and from the standpoint of fine colored gems this is abundantly clear. There is a truly magnificent star ruby in the collection at the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. Years ago a Southern California person of wealth put out a call to find one that fit the same description. From what I know she was got skunked. Hmmm. Fine color is indeed hard to find. At times impossible. What I know after all these years is that I’ve really only regretted two things with regards to merchandise: 1. Selling items that are irreplaceable and 2. Not buying items that later proved to be irreplaceable. Were there ever real regrets on purchases—not really. It is always the elusive nature of fine gems that makes a person say “I wish I’d kept that piece” or “I should have bought that darn piece”—“doggone it, I let it get away!!!”
Back to the Graff Ruby—the stone by comparison to the earlier mentioned Sapphire is quite small. Rubies are smaller. At 8.62 carats the Graff Ruby is in fact mounted in a ring and quite wearable—hope those prongs hold!!! The gems in the picture are cushion cut ruby to give you an idea of what a cushion cut ruby looks like. The actual Graff stone has sides that do not bow quite as much.
One of the most elusive gems listed as a birthstone is aquamarine. March babies are lucky to have such a wonderful gem as their birthstone on the one hand yet true aquamarine can be difficult and many times very expensive to acquire. You will find in the accompanying picture one lot of cut aquamarine in the manner often used by dealers to show to other dealers in loose gems. Note the distance between gems—to keep chipping from happening. Note the different cuts in the lot. Gem rough is so rare and expensive that gems have to be cut according to the piece of rough the cutter is fashioning from rough to cut. The color of this lot is exceptional. Years ago this was a fairly normal (never common) sight in the great aqua mining regions of Brazil. Not so much anymore.
The size of the pieces is also, always a big issue. Smaller aqua gems like smaller diamonds are always much more in supply than larger stones. Smaller aqua gems are currently available enough that they can be cut into calibrated stones which will fit into standard mountings or in mountings produced in quantity. Calibration is done in millimeters (the gem business being international uses the metric system). Smaller and popular calibrated sizes include 6x4mm, 7x5mm and 8x6mm.
We, at Gems At Large, have been amongst the few who have produced calibrated aquamarine in larger sizes. For many of our larger more exotic rings and pendants we have produced calibrated aqua up to 20x15mm (about ¾ of an inch by just over ½ of an inch). During the past few years however the rough to produce the larger calibrated sizes has just not been coming out of the Brazilian mines. Buying colored stones teaches a person about seizing an opportunity. What we can buy and sell this year may not be available next year. Aquamarine is truly an example of this phenomenon. When great aqua is available and at a fair price—we know to jump all over it!!!
One of the most fun things I can imagine is buying gems in the rough uncut form. In the picture you can see a fabulous rough aquamarine crystal. In this case we’re talking about a piece almost 5 kilos in weight (11 pounds), about 20 inches tall and its worth (?)—priceless as a work of nature’s art. Not all rough aqua is this large, fabulous and crystal clear but when it is what a treasure to behold! Not all that long ago I was offered a parcel of rough (known in the trade as a “lot”) —also aquamarine—but even darker blue with wonderful crystal shapes. Some of the pieces in this lot were acid etched by acidified water in the surrounding soil. Acid etched crystals are often very shiny and can have curious shapes as compared with the more classic crystal form of aquamarine. It is unimaginably exciting to find a lot of rough gem material offered that I know, as a gem cutter, will cut into large, clean, top color gems—what a thrill that is. The best way to share this is to be able to pass them on to collector clients as the finished piece—either as a loose gem or in a piece of Laura designed jewelry.
This coming April yet another spectacular diamond will be at auction. This time the gem is a colorless stone of “D” color and is internally flawless. The auction this time will be held in New York at Sotheby’s. The gem is reported to weigh just over 100 carats and has been fashioned into an emerald cut (similar to the stone featured in the photo). Estimates of the price it will fetch are from $19 million USD to $25 million USD. If any of the recent auction results are predictive the price could well exceed the estimates. We will know soon.
There are some things which are too exciting to sit around and wait to talk about. Aqua for March is one such item. If you’re one of the millions of people who saw James Cameron’s Avatar you might recall that what the bad guys are after is called “unobtanium.” Unobtainium (note the different spelling)* has been used in literature as “any fictional, extremely rare, costly, or impossible material.” This last definition according to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Hmmm, seems to me that we’ve been dealing for years, in the gem business, in unobtainium—for millennia. Take for example the aquamarine in the photo. At over 70 carats and top color please just try to find its equal. Eventually over a few years of looking it might be possible.
A few years ago we were looking for a similar gem for a client while attending the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. We, of course, know the biggest and best aqua dealers in the world. There was nothing that year in top color available over about 10-12 carats. The mines had simply not been producing.
Of course, the truly fun thing about the gem business is that an item impossible to find today might pop up in a mine somewhere tomorrow. Lots of adventure!!!
The aqua in the pendant at a high end retailer who would carry such a piece would easily charge over $350,000 for the stone or more. But really, based on its rarity it should be more.
*The movie used one spelling and general fiction has used the other
Amethyst is different than many other gems. Why? Because amethyst is beautiful in many of its colors—high grade and lesser grade. Many gems in their less expensive colors are not very attractive—beer bottle green tourmaline, straw yellow diamonds, overly dark greenish blue sapphire, grayish-purple rubies. And the list goes on.
Amethyst is different in that many of the more affordable colors are quite attractive.
The darker more expensive color of amethyst is wonderful as you can see in the photo but the lighter more affordable color is quite attractive as well—it’s all good!
The difference in price can be quite astounding. Based just on color (not counting size, clarity, or cut) the price difference can be as much as 2,000%. I am speaking of the at the source price—not retail which can vary for other reasons.