Emeralds: One of the Most Overlooked Gemstones

Samantha Gill Blog

I always enjoy watching people preview estate jewelry at our auction house because, while most people are drawn to diamonds, many others seek pieces with unique stones. Take the emerald. With its vivid, evenly distributed color and unique characteristics, I believe this is one of the most overlooked gemstones.

French art critic Charles Blanc was right when he described this precious stone, stating that “the emerald condenses the green of the meadows and certain aspects of the ocean.”

From elegant Victorian brooches and necklaces to geometric shaped rings within the Art Deco era and now modern designed jewelry, emeralds have made a vast appearance throughout history.

And like all things vintage, we’re seeing more demand for emeralds at our Scottsdale auction house. Following trends, we’ve seen emerald bracelets sell for $500 and brooches realize $1,000 and more. Recently, we sold a vintage step cut 13.4 x 10.3 mm emerald within a platinum setting for $850 at auction, a price I was surprised to see because there were several inclusions.

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You’re probably seeing well-known designers, such as Tiffany, Cartier, Bulgari and Faberge include more emeralds in their jewelry to add a splash of brilliance. After all, contemporary fashion is largely inspired and individualized by the current trend of accessorizing with vintage jewelry. To wear bold jewelry, including this deep green gemstone, is exceptionally underrated.

But first – a little background. Emeralds are mined in areas such as Brazil and Africa, with the finest source (and most well-known) coming from Colombia.

Natural emeralds are very valuable, since more synthetics are being produced. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), synthetic emeralds have been manufactured since the late 1800s and are still being produced at a significant rate.

So, how do you assess the value of an emerald? Like many precious gemstones, the value increases as the size and quality improves. But, don’t expect to find a clear natural emerald as the majority of emeralds are highly transparent and included. Inclusions are formations within a gemstone due to the pressure it undergoes during the natural growth process. Emeralds have three-phase inclusions which are a combination of liquid, gas and solid. GIA describes these eye-visible inclusions often as looking mossy or garden-like, even sometimes called “jardin,” French for garden.

An emerald with a lack of inclusions is a good indication that it is a synthetic. In fact, certain types of synthetics will glow red when under UV light. And, oil-treated emeralds will fluoresce yellow when under UV light. This is the most common form of clarity enhancement with natural emeralds. A large majority of these brilliant green gemstones on the market have been clarity

enhanced due to their visible inclusions. On the contrary, if an emerald is untreated, it is about 20 to 30 percent more valuable.

The beauty of a colored gemstone is one of the many factors determining value. Other factors include color, durability and rarity.

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I continue to be amazed at how people tend to steer away from purchasing an emerald due to its inclusions. These flaws give the stone its unique character. If ever given the chance, look at an emerald under a microscope. What you’ll see is actually quite captivating. Not many other gemstones are as heavily included as the emerald.

Whether your emerald is accented with diamonds or a clean, single step cut stone set within gold or platinum, emeralds are a hidden, desirable addition to any jewelry collection. And, definitely worth another look!