Deep Dive into Emerald

FMC brings you all the details you need know

Human eyes are more sensitive to green than any other color. That’s why nothing delights them quite like emerald, the gem of the mineral beryl that shines with the fresh green of Spring. The gem of love and new beginnings, emerald has long symbolized paradise.

As Roman historian Pliny said, “nothing greens greener.” Emerald’s lush green color transforms even a simple jewelry style into something stunning. And like the way that the green leaves in a beautiful garden offset the colors of each blossom, emeralds harmonize with every other color.

Emeralds are a meaningful gemstone choice for an engagement ring because they symbolize love and the beginning of a new life. Trendsetters with emerald engagement rings include the Duchess of Windsor and Jacqueline Kennedy in the past and Halle Berry and Elizabeth Olsen today.

Every culture that discovered emeralds instantly fell in love. Cleopatra mined emerald in Egypt in 50 BC. According to The Egyptian Book of The Dead, emeralds are a gift from Thoth, the God of Wisdom. Because emeralds symbolize rebirth, mummies were buried with an emerald placed at their throat to provide protection during the journey to the afterlife.

In the New World, the Incas mined emerald in what is now Colombia since at least the year 1000. When the Spanish reached South America, they loaded their treasure galleons with high quality emeralds, finer than Europeans had ever seen before.

The Mughal rulers of India prized Colombian emeralds as pieces of paradise on earth, creating fantastic emerald jewelry, swords and objects carved with leaves and flowers and inscribed with prayers and the names of their owners.

The sultans of the Ottoman Empire also treasured Colombian emeralds. The 75.47-carat Hooker Emerald, now in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, was once the belt buckle of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Mining Emeralds

Colombia is still the most important source of emeralds today. Other important sources of emerald are Zambia, Brazil, Afghanistan, Russia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Ethiopia.

Colombian emeralds had a violent birth, with intense folding, faulting and fracturing of the earth as the emerald-bearing mountains were formed. The emerald crystals cooled slowly over millions of years, trapping tiny pockets of water, gas, and other minerals and sometimes fracturing as the mountains moved.

The story of that journey can be seen inside Colombian emeralds, which are found in calcite veins in black shale. Their extraordinary green color is due to trace amounts of chromium and very little iron.

FURA Gems mines emerald from the 400-year old Coscuez mine, deep in the mountains that inspired the company’s name. Legend says that the twin peaks of Tena and Fura were once husband and wife, joined together as one. Deeply devoted to each other, their spirits remained united until an act of explosive passion divided the couple forever, forcing them apart and into the two separate mountains that bear their names today. As Fura wept over the separation, her tears became emeralds, preserving her love for eternity.

FURA Gems transformed the Coscuez Mine from a warren of unsafe hand-dug tunnels to a fully mechanized modern mine by introducing drilling machines, high-capacity ventilation fans, optical cables for 24/7 live monitoring, and electric vehicles to improve air quality. Analyzing core samples with X-ray fluorescence, a first in Colombia, generates detailed geochemical data that can be used to plan mining operations.

The mine has 40km of underground tunnels. As well as making operations more productive and efficient, workers are now safer and better protected than at any other point in the mine’s history.

FURA met with locals to assess the needs of the remote community around the mine. The top request from women was jobs. FURA addressed the long-held gender imbalance in gem mining by creating a new recovery plant staffed entirely by women who sort through rock and ore searching for emerald.

FURA Gems sponsors a local training and education center for youth in the area. To increase local jobs, FURA also sponsored a bakery: the nearest fresh bread and pastry is a three-hour drive away. A new tailoring workshop sews the mine’s uniforms as well as creates and repairs clothing for the community.

FURA also opened a reforestation nursery that also trains local young people to take care of the forest, planting 800 native Igua and Samán trees to strengthen its resilience.

Judging Emerald Quality

What makes a high-quality emerald special is its color: a fresh intense green, like grass after a spring rain. The most desirable emerald colors are pure green, with vivid color saturation.

Emerald clarity is much less important. Natural emeralds almost always have many eye-visible inclusions, known as the jardin, from the French for garden, that grows along with the crystal. An included emerald with a deep, full color has a much higher value than a flawless emerald of paler color.

The emerald treatment known as fracture filling makes these inclusions less visible. Most natural emeralds have surface-reaching fissures filled with oil to increase the emerald’s apparent transparency. The oil may need to be replaced over time.

You’re most likely to see emerald cut into an emerald cut: the only cut named after a gemstone variety. The emerald cut is an octagonal step cut that was created to make the most of the shape of the emerald rough and eliminate sharp corners that might chip. It usually saves maximum weight from the crystal, and also shows emerald’s color at its best. Other shapes and styles are available too.

Emerald’s specific gravity, or density, is relatively low. That means an emerald with a one-carat weight is noticeably larger in size than a one-carat weight diamond.

Emerald jewelry is best cleaned with a soft tightly woven microfiber cloth. Although emeralds have a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, inclusions can make them vulnerable to chipping. Emerald jewelry should be stored in a padded container and not be exposed to high heat or pressure. Never use an ultrasonic machine or steam to clean emerald jewelry. Emeralds should always be removed from the setting when jewelry is resized or repaired.

Emerald is the birthstone for the month of May and the gemstone for 20th wedding anniversaries. But with its refreshing vibrant color, inspiring meaning and legendary history, emerald is also the gem for everyone who wishes the beauty of Spring could last forever.

  • American Gem Trade Association logo
  • International Colored Gemstone Association logo
  • Women's Jewelry Association logo
  • Jewelers of America logo