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Sandawana Emeralds - Better than Colombian Emeralds?

Updated on November 8, 2016
TessSchlesinger profile image

Tessa has worked as an interior designer, designed clothing, make up artist,and decorator. She has various qualifications in the field.

Colombian Emerald or Sandawana Emerald?

The Sandawana Emerald is probably one of the most rare stones in the world so it holds its value well. It is strikingly beautiful and women like Liz Taylor and Angelina Jolie have made some very impressive statements wearing them. Emeralds are mined in quite a few countries in the world, but the Sandawana emerald comes from an area in Zimbabwe with that name.

Colombian emerald tends to be the popular choice. The colour is a good green and isn't as expensive as Zimbabwean emeralds. While emeralds are mined in many countries, Colombian emeralds tends to be the ones of choice as they are best (if you don't count the Sandawana stone. They come in a wide range of colors ranging from a yellow green through to a very dark blue green.

Jolie wore 115 carat emerald earrings to the Oscars!
Jolie wore 115 carat emerald earrings to the Oscars! | Source

Characteristics of Emeralds

Emeralds are very soft so they break easily and need to be worn with care. They range in color from a yellow green through a deep green to a blue green. The deep green ones are the ones which are highly prized. The definition of an emerald is not the same in the USA as it is in Europe and elsewhere in the world, so stones sold in the USA as emeralds would not necessarily be classified as emeralds elsewhere. That's because elsewhere emeralds are defined a beryl stone with traces of chromium and beryllium which accounts for their green color. However, in the USA, the American Jewelry Council said that stones with vanadium would also be accepted as emeralds. So that's why in America you can buy a 4 carat emerald for about $800 but not necessarily elsewhere.

In America, the term Colombian emerald is used to denote that the emerald contains vanadium rather than chromium.

Unusually, whereas prized diamonds have no inclusions, this is not so for this beryllium stone.Whereas an instrument is used to determine the purity of a diamond, the human eye is sufficient to determine whether the green gemstone is to be highly prized for clarity or not..

They are valued according to the depth of green color, how pure they are, their weight (number of carats), and brilliance. The way the stone is cut is also important.

Synthetic emeralds have been produced and their chemical and gemological composition is identical to mined stones. Ultraviolet light is used to establish whether stones are mined or manufactured.

Liz Taylor's Emerald Jewelry.

Liz Taylor had one of the most stunning collections of emeralds in the world.
Liz Taylor had one of the most stunning collections of emeralds in the world.

Emerald Lore

Sandawana Emerald is rare
It has a unique deep green colour
If 3 carats or more, greater value than diamonds
Emeralds in the USA not really emeralds
Emeralds are soft
Sandawana Emeralds come from Zimbabwe
Colombia is the largest supplier of emeralds internationally
Emeralds in Colombia are at the center of the civil war
Colombian emeralds are said to be the purest in the word.

Different types and locations of Emeralds

Colombia is the world's leading producer of diamonds, varying between 50 and 95% of the world's total, depending on the year. Zambia is the world's second largest producer. The most recent discovery of emeralds was in the Yukon in Canada. While some emeralds are superior to others for size, colour, and clarity, quite a few countries mine them, including Afghanistan, Australia, France, Germany, China, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Somalia, South Africa, and the United States (where they are of a different composition.

Zimbabwean Emeralds

There are currently 27 emerald mines in Zimbabwe, but the largest emerald mine in Sandawana closed in 2012. Initially emeralds greater than three carats were found quite frequently at the Sandawana mine, but that is not so anymore. The norm is about half a carat. That said, you can buy a cut (but not set) 4 carat emerald for about $800 (it probably has a flaw or six in it at that price). Provided you don't scratch it, it will retain its value (and increase in value) much longer than a diamond will. That said, I'm going to quote what one jeweller said, "“The finest emerald I’ve ever seen was a 3-carat Sandawana stone shown me in 1980. It’s owner, an Indian dealer, wanted a mind-boggling $60,000 per carat. But eventually he got it.” The colour and clarity of the stone have a lot to do with the price that the stone gets in the market place.

These emeralds saw their peak production in the 50s and 60s, and it's possible that political factors like UDI and the subsequent takeover by Mugabe had something to do with the further success of the mines.

Colombian Emeralds

Unusually, emeralds in Colombia are mined from sedimentary host rock as opposed to igneous rock. This means that they are far more pure than emeralds found in other countries. They also contain vanadium, so technically they wouldn't be classified as an emerald in countries outside the USA.

Most of these precious stones are minded in the east Andes mountain range between Boyaca and Cundinamarca. The top producing mines are Coscuez, Chivor, and Muzo, with Muzo being the most important mine internationally as it produces a grass-green coloured emerald.

The very dark green emerald which is so highly prized internationally is only found at great depth in these mines.

Because of their value on the international market, Colombian emeralds create a large illicit

Quaqueros (smugglers), search alongside the Río Itoco river in the Muzo valley for stones. They also steal from storage houses where the gemstones are stored before they are cut and polished.

The 858 carat Gachala Emerald


Historic Emeralds

The Mogul emerald was found in 1695 and weights 217 carats. It was last seen in 2001 when it was sold to an unknown buyer for $2.2 million. The Devonshire emerald is in the Natural History Museum in London and weighs 1386 carats (I saw it!). For about three hundred years (until just before WWII), emeralds were highly sought after by royalty, the aristocracy, and the very rich. While diamonds were a girl's best friends, it was emeralds that spoke of high status and incredible wealth. When looking at various diadems and crowns made for monarchs, a high percentage of them were not only set with emeralds but had the central stone as a large emerald (or sapphire).

The 37.8 Chalk Emerald worn by a Maharani

Historic emerals
Historic emerals

Which stone do you prefer

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An Thriller of an Emerald Story!

Simulated Emerald stones

Sterling Silver 925 Ring NATURAL EMERALD and WHITE TOPAZ 0.54 Carat with RHODIUM-PLATED Finish
Sterling Silver 925 Ring NATURAL EMERALD and WHITE TOPAZ 0.54 Carat with RHODIUM-PLATED Finish

I have always worn emeralds. The stone sits beautifully on my finger, and because most people don't think of buying emeralds, the ring is noticed immediately. The same applies for earrings.


Emerald Jewelry

Emerald rings range in price from about $300 for a vanadium emerald under one carat to a few thousand pounds in the UK for a three carat chromium emerald. Synthetic emerald stones start from about $15.00 up. It's impossible to see the difference just from looking because they are composed of the identical minerals.

As human beings, we are drawn to blues (sapphires) as they echo the colour of sea and sky and green (emeralds) because they echo the colour of trees and grass.

Emerald gemstones are used in tiaras, rings, earrings, pendants, and bracelets. Angelina Jolie has worn emerald earrings with matching pendant and Elizabeth Taylor owned some magnificent and very sizable emerald rings and chokers.

Royalty has a preference for blue or green stones for engagement rings rather than diamonds, and it is possible as the general public begins to realize that diamonds are pretty worthless that there will be an increase in the popularity of emeralds as engagement rings and dress rings.

© 2014 Tessa Schlesinger


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    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 10 months ago from Nibiru

      good hub