EMERALDS – PART 2

Clarity

Emeralds tend to have numerous inclusions and surface breaking fissures. Unlike diamonds, where the loupe standard, i.e. 10× magnification, is used to grade clarity, emeralds are graded by eye. Thus, if an emerald has no visible inclusions to the eye (assuming normal visual acuity) it is considered flawless. Stones that lack surface breaking fissures are extremely rare and therefore almost all emeralds are treated (“oiled”, see below) to enhance the apparent clarity. The inclusions and fissures within an emerald are sometime described as jardin (French for garden), because of their mossy appearance. Imperfections are unique for each emerald and can be used to identify a particular stone. Eye-clean stones of a vivid primary green hue (as described in Part 1), with no more than 15% of any secondary hue or combination (either blue or yellow) of a medium-dark tone, command the highest prices. The relative non-uniformity motivates the cutting of emeralds in cabochon form, rather than faceted shapes. Faceted emeralds are most commonly given an oval cut, or the signature emerald cut, a rectangular cut with facets around the top edge.

Treatments

Most emeralds are oiled as part of the post-lapidary process, in order to fill in surface-reaching cracks so that clarity and stability are improved. Cedar oil, having a similar refractive index, is often used in this widely adopted practice. Other liquids, including synthetic oils and polymers with refractive indexes close to that of emeralds, such as Opticon, are also used. These treatments are typically applied in a vacuum chamber under mild heat, to open the pores of the stone and allow the fracture-filling agent to be absorbed more effectively. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires the disclosure of this treatment when an oil treated emerald is sold. The use of oil is traditional and largely accepted by the gem trade, although oil treated emeralds are worth much less than un-treated emeralds of similar quality. Other treatments, for example the use of green-tinted oil, are not acceptable in the trade. Gems are graded on a four-step scale; noneminormoderate and highly enhanced. These categories reflect levels of enhancement, not clarity. A gem graded none on the enhancement scale may still exhibit visible inclusions. Laboratories apply these criteria differently. Some gemologists consider the mere presence of oil or polymers to constitute enhancement. Others may ignore traces of oil if the presence of the material does not improve the look of the gemstone.[

Emerald mines

A Colombian trapiche emerald

Emeralds in antiquity were mined in Egypt at locations on Mount Smaragdus since 1500 BCE, and India, and Austria since at least the 14th century CE. The Egyptian mines were exploited on an industrial scale by the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and later by Islamic conquerors. Mining ceased with the discovery of the Colombian deposits; only ruins remain.[

Colombia is by far the world’s largest producer of emeralds, constituting 50–95% of the world production, with the number depending on the year, source and grade. Emerald production in Colombia has increased drastically in the last decade, increasing by 78% from 2000 to 2010. The three main emerald mining areas in Colombia are Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. Rare “trapiche” emeralds are found in Colombia, distinguished by ray-like spokes of dark impurities.

Zambia is the world’s second biggest producer, with its Kafubu River area deposits (Kagem Mines) about 45 km (28 mi) southwest of Kitwe responsible for 20% of the world’s production of gem-quality stones in 2004.[ In the first half of 2011, the Kagem Mines produced 3.74 tons of emeralds.

Emeralds are found all over the world in countries such as Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, the United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In the US, emeralds have been found in Connecticut, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In Canada, in 1997 emeralds were discovered in the Yukon.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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