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Emerald Education

Emerald Overview

For thousands of years emeralds have been one of the most sought-after natural elements of the earth. The Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote of them frequently in their texts, describing in detail of their vivid and comforting color and beauty. Emeralds come from a mineral known as beryl, which include other gemstones such as aquamarine. In previous times, emerald was believed to give the wearer protection from evil and disease. Aristotle once wrote that emeralds bring about victory, and increases its owner's status amongst peers. Time has only strengthened the emerald's popularity in society, as people continue to seek out emeralds in a variety of fashions. This is most likely due to emerald's vibrant array of soothing color, its impressive hardness, and cultural and religious symbolism.

It will come at no surprise that emeralds are exclusively green. Like other gemstones belonging to the same mineral species, it is the presence of certain trace elements that causes gemstones to differ in appearance. For emeralds, it is the presence of the trace elements vanadium and chromium. These elements create the vivid green that emeralds are known for, separating them from their sister stones, aquamarine and green beryl. While green is the most prominent color found in emeralds, it is certainly not the only one. Other undertones and secondary colors can be present in an emerald, such as blue and yellow. Again, these undertones are the result of the presence of trace elements. Traces of yellow in emerald indicate the presence of iron in addition to chromium or vanadium. The color intensity of emeralds can also vary to a degree. Emeralds can range from a deep, dark green, to a color that is light and bright. The range in intensity and undertones add to the emerald's widespread popularity throughout the world.

On the Moh's scale of Hardness, emerald ranks an 8 out of 10, making them the third hardest gem after sapphires/rubies and diamonds. The emerald's hardness helps make it a popular choice for everyday jewelry as it is both durable and fashionable. Emeralds are prominently featured in nearly all types of jewelry such as rings, necklaces/pendants, and earrings.

Emeralds are more than meets the eye. While it has been stated that they can be found in a dazzling array of intensity and undertones, emeralds can also exhibit a variety of inclusions and fissures that add to each gemstone's unique properties. Some can be heavily included and opaque, while others are vibrant and transparent. These qualities help make each stone unique and beautiful to those in its possession.

Different cultures and religions both in modern times and in the past have held their own beliefs on why the emerald is so important. In Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra adorned both the palace and herself in emeralds as they were sacred symbols of immortality and fertility. Arab and Spanish physicians used emeralds to ward off infection and poison. Old Christianity associated the emerald's transparency and soothing color with the twelve apostles and Jesus Christ. Emeralds have also been prominently featured in royal jewelry as well. Harry Winston famously made the Seven Emerald Tiara for the empress of Iran in 1958. The royal collections from England and France contain a massive array of emeralds set in tiaras, necklaces, and other fine jewelry. Emeralds prominence throughout history and its symbolism to many have helped continue its popularity amongst fans and collectors of precious gemstones today.

Emerald Quality and Pricing Factors

The quality of an emerald depends on three main factors: color intensity, clarity, and cut. Other qualities that factor into the quality of an emerald is its cut, weight, origin. As expected with any gemstone, the quality is directly correlated with the price.

Color

As with most other gemstones, the color of an emerald is the most important quality factor and the main driver of value. Generally, the most desirable color is anywhere from blue/green to pure green. It should be evenly distributed and highly transparent, with strong saturation. Below is GemsNYs own color grading system for emeralds:


Clarity

There is no standardized grading system for colored gems, and it is rare to find a gemstone with no eye visible inclusions. Non-included emeralds are even more difficult to find, as emeralds are typically found with more imperfections than other gemstones. In the wholesale trade we evaluate emerald clarity using the following methodology:

(1) Holding the emerald face up 12 inches from the observer's eye

(2) Tilting them in various directions to visually inspect if any inclusions are visible

(3) Only imperfections viewable on the crown (top part of the gemstone) are inspected and not the pavilion (back side)

Below are the clarity gradings for emeralds we utilize and are commonly used by most of our jeweler customers:

Grading Description
Very Slightly Included Very tiny inclusions may be eye visible under close inspection or when tilting the gem
Slightly Included Tiny inclusions are eye visible
Moderately Included Inclusions are eye visible
Included Significant inclusions are eye visible

Cut

Lapidary's cut emeralds according to the shade of the emerald rough material to get the desired color (the primary price driver). Darker material is cut shallower to allow more light to go through the gem, while lighter material is cut deeper to allow the emerald to hold in more light and increase saturation. Emeralds are also more brittle than gemstones like sapphires, which makes them more vulnerable to damage during the cutting process, adding to the degree of difficulty. Cutting emeralds is an art and requires years of experience.

Transparent gems are the most valuable and allow one to see the true richness of color. The catch-22 with transparent gems is that it is much easier to view imperfections. Finding an emerald transparent and eye clean is extremely rare. Over-saturation of color leads a gem to be semi-transparent as less light is allowed to escape. Opaque gems tend to be eye clean, but may appear as black.

Carat / Measurements

The weight of a gemstone is measured in a unit called carats (cts.). There are 5 carats in 1 gram. As discussed above, an emerald can be cut deep or shallow to maximize the color of the sapphire. A deep cut 1 carat emerald will appear visually smaller than a 1 carat shallow emerald. For this reason, it is best to judge an emerald based on millimeter measurements (length and width) and not carat weight.

Click here for our Stone Size Chart which you can print to see the actual sizes of various shapes

Click here for our Stone Size Tool where you can input various measurements to see a basic rendering of centerstone sizes relative to your finger - particularly useful if you are planning to mount the gem in a ring.

Please Note: The carat weight listed on the website for pairs is the combined total weight of the two gemstones.

Origin

Emeralds are mined in various locations around the world. All origins produce high and low quality gemstones. The origin of the emeralds can have an impact on its value, primarily in the higher quality. Low quality emeralds will not receive a premium even though they are mined from a rare and prestigious origin. See below various origins emeralds are mined from:

 

Emerald Origins
Colombian These are considered the best quality emeralds. Such emeralds are known for having exceptional transparency.
Zambian Produce very high quality emeralds and are known to have deep forest green color.
Brazilian Brazilian emeralds offer a fine deep green color but tend to have more imperfections.

Emeralds from desired mines such as Colombia will carry a premium over emeralds from other origins. Colombian emeralds are particularly sought-after for their historical mines and excellent transparency. The premium grows as the quality and size/weight of a gemstone increases. For most customers origin should not factor into the decision making process. All origins produce low, medium and high quality gemstones. It is more important to find the quality of the gemstone you want than the origin.

Treatment

Untreated emeralds are extremely rare and very difficult to find. Most local jewelry stores only sell oiled emeralds due to limited sourcing available. GemsNY has one of the largest collections of certified untreated emeralds in the world. Enhancements in emeralds are used to improve or change the color in a sapphire. Here is a list of various emerald treatments:

Untreated - Only traditional process of cutting and polishing applied to improve the appearance or durability of the gem
Oiling - The traditional treatment for emeralds is using heated natural oil (such as cedar oil) to submerge the gemstone and fill the fractures within. Over time, it is common that the oil can dry out which is why it is necessary to re-oil emeralds from time to time to maintain their look.
Fillers - The modern treatment for emeralds uses a polymer resin which is injected into and onto the emerald under a vacuum. Like oil, the resin fills the flaws within the emerald and can also improve color and durability.

Heated and treated gems in top quality will reach a price ceiling. Untreated gems on the other hand can have prices move continuously higher as the quality improves and compounds when size of the gems increases simultaneously - largely due to the rarity of untreated emeralds.

Overall Grading Value (AAAAA - A)

Many local jewelers use a letter grading system to educate their customers of quality. To assist our customers to relate to the jewelers grading system, we have provided an overall grade. It is important to note that most jewelers do not sell untreated emeralds and therefore their AAAA is not the highest grading. We have therefore created a AAAAA grading to distinguish the heirloom quality untreated emeralds. Please see the full grading scale and description below:

Grading % of All Emerald Description
AAAAA (Untreated Heirloom) Extremely Rare

These UNTREATED EMERALDS are the rarest and highly sought out by collectors. They have rich color, very slightly included to eye clean clarity and exhibit nice sparkle. These gems tend to appreciate most in value over time due to rarity and high demand. Also may include gem quality oiled emeralds.

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AAAA (Heirloom) Top 1%

Fine quality emerald that are typically found at higher end boutiques. They have rich color, slightly included to eye clean clarity and tend to exhibit nice sparkle. These gems are typically oiled.

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AAA (Excellent) Top 10%

High quality emeralds that are typically found in high end stores such as on 5th Avenue. They have vivid to medium color and slightly included to very slightly included eye clarity.

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AA (Very Good) Top 25%

Medium to light color gems that exhibit medium sparkle. They typically have moderate to slightly included eye clarity.These gems are usually found at medium to high end jewelers.

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A (Good) Top 50 to 75%

Light color gems that tend to be included. Typically found in commercial quality jewelry.

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Care Instructions

Emeralds are very easy to take care of due to their hardness and durability. To keep your emerald jewelry sparkling you may want to clean it to remove the unwanted dirt and residue build up. Here are a few care tips to keeping your emerald jewelry clean and shiny.

1) Avoid contact with make-up, harsh chemicals (i.e. chlorine and bleach), moisturizers and abrasives. Best to take jewelry off when in contact with these items. Never swim or bathe with your jewelry on. It is also best to avoid hard impact activities that may scratch or chip the emerald such as exercising and gardening.

2) Clean your emerald by pouring lukewarm water in a bowl and mixing with mild cleaning detergent. Submerge your jewelry until the dirty and residue is moistened. Then use a soft toothbrush to clean the underside of the emerald. Once clean, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. For extremely dirty jewelry, you may need to repeat the process.

3) Store your emerald jewelry individually and avoid contact with other jewelry to prevent scratching. Keep the emerald away from heat and direct sunlight. For every day rings (such as engagement rings), we recommend a weekly rudimentary check to ensure the center gem is not loose. Take off the ring and shake next to the ear (can also tap) and see if you hear rattling. If you do, immediately stop wearing and get tightened.

4) We highly recommend an annual maintenance on your emerald jewelry to have the gems tightened and jewelry professionally cleaned. This will ensure your jewelry lasts a lifetime.

5) Do not use commercial jewelry cleaners or ultrasonic cleaners for your Emerald jewelry.

Based on 47th Street in Manhattan - All of our Jewelry is Handcrafted in New York City's Diamond District

Testimonials

Dan W.- MI, US
February 27, 2020
We called and requested information and the gemologist was very helpful. The ordering process was a breeze!
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February 9, 2020
Exceptional selection of gemstones. Easy to use and filter to specific characteristics needed.
Nathalie L.- Ontario, CA
February 2, 2020
Very detailed website and easy to use! I found the ruby I wanted effortlessly! Thanks for the help!
Tracy H.- TN, US
January 27, 2020
The process of building my ring was so much fun. The final product looks amazing! :) I am very pleased with my overall...

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