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Emeralds of Colombia

Updated on March 11, 2013
Butterfly made from Colombian Emeralds
Butterfly made from Colombian Emeralds | Source
Rough Emerald
Rough Emerald | Source
Emerald Formation
Emerald Formation | Source
Emerald Ring
Emerald Ring | Source
Emerald Horse
Emerald Horse | Source
Mining Operation
Mining Operation | Source
Rough Emerald
Rough Emerald | Source
Emerald Ring
Emerald Ring | Source

Colombia has some of the finest emeralds in the world. Colombia's emeralds are prized for their transparency and crystallization. They are mined in three major areas of the country. The best mines are Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. Emeralds were originally discovered in these areas in 1500. The Muzo mine was discovered and then lost for two hundred years.

The mining companies lease the mines from the government of Colombia. All around these mines are treasurer hunters who search for these emeralds illegally outside these mines. They are called “guagueros.” When they find an emerald they have to conceal it or other guagueros will steal it or even kill each other over the stone. The government does not police these individuals because half of the time they kill each other.

Emeralds are valued based on four things; color, cut, clarity, and crystal (transparency). Color is number one but transparency runs a close second. The best color is the darker green. Natural inclusions and flaws just add character to the emerald. Some times people will oil the emeralds with cedar oil to make them more transparent. Colombia is by far the largest emerald producer in the world, producing from 50% to 95% of the world supply depending on the year.

About once or twice a year an emerald larger than 2 carats and in fine condition will be found. These emeralds are called “gota de aceite” or oil drop. Their value is higher than a comparable diamond. In 1967 an emerald called the Gachala Emerald was discovered in the La Vega de San Juan mine in Gachala, Colombia. It is 858 carats, one of the largest in the world.

Emeralds have had a superstitious past. It was believed that the person possessing the emerald would receive the benefits of, increased intelligence, protection of their marriage, easier child birth, and being able to predict future events.

The emerald business in Colombia is controlled by a cartel of a few men. The leader of the cartel is Victor Caranza. Victor is one of the most important men in Colombia. He owns about three mines. Each mine is owned by just a few people. When one of the mines makes a big find, they all fly into town in their helicopters full of suitcases of money. They have an auction and the winner takes the entire find. The best emeralds are then immediately sent to New York and Japan. They end up in places like Sothebys, Christies, Cartier, and Harry Winston. The remainder of the stones stay in Bogota to be cut and distributed.

Take a trip into one of Colombia's emerald mines.


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