There is something very strong and striking about an emerald that has attracted people to them throughout history. The vibrant green color evokes thoughts of life and eternal youth. Emeralds are the birthstone for the month of May, the time when things are blooming and coming to life. It’s also the anniversary stone for the 20th and 35th years of marriage, symbolizing love and fidelity.
Like most colored stones, emeralds tend to have many fractures, or inclusions, because of the way that they grow. High quality emeralds are the exception, and these are very few and far between, whereas mediocre stones are plentiful. Unlike many other stones, valuing emeralds takes an extreme expertise, as it requires a very refined eye. The color and lack of inclusions are very important, as well as the origin of the stone. Emeralds that come from Colombia, and more specifically the historic Muzo mine, are the most valuable and tend to fetch the highest prices in the secondary market. Emeralds from the Muzo mine have fewer inclusions, giving them good transparency and a type of crystalline brilliance. They also have a deep, rich green color with a trace of blue.
This emerald ring that we recently purchased is an example of a lower quality stone that was not even faceted. Stones with a great deal of fractures tend to be cut into beads or cabochons, instead of faceted. This does not mean that every faceted stone is a valuable one, though, as it still has to be a very specific, saturated shade of green.
It has always been common practice to oil emeralds to improve their stability by filling in microscopic fissures on their surface. Without this treatment, most would be too fragile to wear. In recent years, a polymer resin has replaced oil as the common treatment for emeralds, but oil remains an accepted treatment in the trade. Reputable jewelers will always disclose information on whether a stone has been treated, or “enhanced”, to potential buyers. In November 1997, the reputation, and subsequently the price, of emeralds took a big hit following an NBC Nightline exposé in which hidden cameras showed sales associates selling emerald jewelry to clients and claiming that the stones had not been treated. These days, because of their tarnished reputation, and several subsequent dips in the marketplace, very few emeralds are worth what they were the 1980’s and early ‘90’s. Many people find that they bought at the height of the market, and that their stones have decreased in value over the years.