Department of Rare Industrial Materials


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Collectors are fascinated with emerald. This rare and exotic gem is also known as “green fire”. Colombia is the main source of gem emerald. This South American country is one of the most dangerous and unstable places in the world. Many visitors recall the similarities between Chicago in the 1920s and Colombia today. With the highest murder and kidnapping rates in the world, cocaine cartels and a long-running guerrilla insurgency, Colombia is often referred to as “Locombia”, or the mad country.

Which mine is better for collectors? The terms Muzo and Chivor are often used in the trade, not so much to determine the exact source of a gem, but rather to to describe the qualities of the emerald. “Muzo” is used to describe a warm, grass-green emerald, with yellow being the secondary color. “Chivor” stones are like the pine trees of Washington state, with blue being the secondary color. Certain collectors and dealers argue about which color is the best, but it is really a matter of personal preference. In top colors both types of these emeralds are highly desirable and expensive.

Emeralds are very included compared to most gemstones. Inclusions that would not be acceptable in ruby and sapphire are acceptable in emerald. The definitive identifier for Colombian emerald is the three-phase inclusion; solid, liquid, and gas. Even though the gem is typically mined with eye-visible inclusions (even at the collector level), emerald is the most popular colored gem in America. Probably 98% of all emerald discovered would be graded inclusions .

Most collectors seek strictly Colombian emeralds. They spend decades buying the finest green and cleanest stones available. Occasionally, African and Brazilian emeralds are discovered that look exactly like Colombian emerald. These gems make sense to collect if you are an emerald connoisseur. If you have a moderate budget, you can purchase African emerald. These gems are cleaner than Colombian emeralds but have a touch of black and gray colors. They trade at a 50% discount to Colombian stones. If you are on a limited budget, occasionally Brazil produces nice stones at about 50% the price of Colombians. Brazilian emeralds are green/black in appearance.

Commercial quality Colombian emeralds can easily range from $500-$2500 per carat for one carat stones. High jewelry quality ranges from $2500-$5000 per carat. Gem, one carat emeralds range between $5000-$10,000 per carat. The finest color, four carat or larger Colombian emeralds can easily fetch $20,000 per carat. A ten carat, gem emerald can exceed $50,000 per carat. If an emerald is AGL graded as No Clarity Enhancement, add 100% to these figures. Many collectors search for untreated emeralds only.