Emeralds have long been coveted for their breathtaking natural beauty and prized for their rarity. With the vibrant green colour referencing the exuberance of spring and evoking emotions of renewal and rebirth, emeralds are universally associated with hope, love, and prosperity. 

From Cleopatra in Egypt to Catherine the Great in Russia, the Habsburgs in Spain to the Safavid Shahs in Persia, the Ottomans in Turkey to the Grand Mughals in India, the opulence and magnificence of the Royal Courts of the day were defined by their jewelled splendours, particularly their extravagant emerald collections. Catherine the Great’s infatuation with emeralds is legendary. In a nod to statecraft, tradition has it that before the Empress attended what could potentially be an awkward meeting with her Supreme Privy Council, by way of an expression of strength, she would “power dress” with multiple emerald jewels to intimidate her annoying ministerial detractors. Upon her death, her emeralds were dispersed amongst the Romanov’s, many ending up in the equally legendary emerald collection of Grand Duchess Vladimir through her father-in-law Tsar Alexander II.

Important Jewels at Leonard Joel Auctions
Elizabeth Taylor wearing her 23.46 carat Emerald Bulgari pendant brooch / Alamy

Today, emeralds continue to attract royalty, wealthy businesspeople, celebrities, and Hollywood stars. In 1911, Queen Mary famously wore an Art Deco emerald choker which Queen Elizabeth later gave to Princess Diana as a wedding gift. In 1953, President John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier with a two-carat diamond and emerald ring. Elizabeth Taylor had a great love for the stone, with the 23.46 carat emerald Bulgari pendant brooch owned by the actress selling in 2011 for US $6.5 million at Christie’s in New York. 

Emerald has been the standard for green among coloured stones for thousands of years. Whilst emeralds in antiquity were mined in Egypt, India, and Austria, today emeralds are excavated in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, and Colombia. Since the 16th Century, Colombia has been acknowledged as the leading source of the world’s finest emeralds and represents the yardstick against which all stones are evaluated. Some six hours by car north of Bogotá, the country’s capital, nestled in the valleys of the eastern ranges of the Andes, (Cordillera Oriental) between the Boyacá and Cundinamarca departments, hidden away in the lush greenery are a series of small mining towns accounting for between 70–90% of the world’s emerald production.

Important Jewels at Leonard Joel Auctions
An outstanding Muzo Emerald, argyle fancy pink diamond and diamond ring
$320,000-480,000

Emeralds are formed when chromium, vanadium, and iron are present in the mineral beryl. The varying presence of these three elements gives emerald its range of colour. The most desirable emerald colours are bluish green to pure green, with vivid color saturation and tone that’s not too dark. The most prized emeralds are highly transparent. Their colour is evenly distributed, with no eye-visible colour zoning. In coloured stones, transparency and clarity are closely linked. This is especially true for emeralds. The trade generally accepts eye-visible inclusions in higher-quality emeralds. However, when the inclusions have a negative effect on transparency and clarity, they also dramatically reduce value. Emerald inclusions are formed of gases, liquids, other crystals, and minerals. Jewellers call these inclusions “Jardin” (garden) as they are said to resemble a mossy wilderness ‘growing’ within the stone. Consequently, high clarity emeralds are extremely rare and highly prized.

Three mining sites in Colombia are particularly noteworthy: Muzo, Chivor (Somondoco) and Coscuez. Whilst each locality produces a range of colours, darker tones of pure green emeralds generally come from Muzo. Emeralds that are lighter in tone and slightly bluish green in colour are associated with Chivor. Emeralds from Coscuez generally have good transparency with a bright yellowish-green colour.

The unique colour variations of emeralds and the intensity of each stone leaves space for everyone to discover their perfect match, specific to their individual taste; the perfect gemstone to commemorate one of life’s big moments.

HAMISH SHARMA / Head of Important Jewels

November 2021

Banner Image: (Left) Emerald and diamond ring. $20,000-30,000
(Right) A pair of Emerald and Diamond pendant earrings. $20,000-30,000