Journey to the stone - Emerald
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In this podcast of Journey to the Stone, we talk about one of the most beloved gems in existence. Also one of the most remarkable for its color, and one of the most in-demand in the world. The legendary Emerald, one of the “Big Four.”
Now, where did it all start? Let's talk about that. Let's take a step back and understand where all this started. It all started basically with Cleopatra 2,000 years ago. Cleopatra was a big advocate of Emerald. She loved it, she basically put it on the map. And all these supposed Emeralds at the time came from a place called Zabargad.
Now, Zabargad Island, or known as St. John's Island, is now a current reserve off of the coast of Egypt. This particular locale actually was not an Emerald mine; it was actually a Peridot mine. No, don't get me wrong. The Peridot that comes from Zabargad is some of the finest Peridot in the world. And I actually took a position: went to the estate sale of the family who mined this up until the 1950s, before it became a national reserve, and bought their supply of this Zabargad Peridot. But it's by no means Emerald. But back in the day, that was the Emerald—2,000 years ago that everybody thought was Emerald.
Along comes the Spanish crusades. Now let's flashback. Let's flash forward around 1,500 years. And let's talk about the Spanish. They were sending boats all over the world, primarily looking for anything gold, mineral, spices—anything they could bring back to the kingdom of Spain. So basically, they went to South America. Now when they went into South America, they obviously arrived in Colombia. And then they discovered this sparkling gem. It was amazing. It was green, it was something different.
And the Muzo natives at the time, the Muzo area—basically the Boyacá Highlands, of what they're called today in Colombia—this particular location is about 800 miles above sea level. Now, it's right in the Andes Mountain range. And how these Emeralds were formed: in Colombia, they're hydrothermal-type vein deposits. And what's really unique about this Emerald—very different from the Emerald you'll see in Zambia or Brazil—this particular material has a high concentration of Chromium. And how it was formed was actually, they had a tectonic plate that was actually an underground plate, that collided with what's known as the South American plate, creating that massive impact that created the Andes Mountain range. Very similar to what happened in the Himalayas, except this had happened in South America.
And through the formation of that with hot magma, hot lava, everything like that, a lot of volcanic events in the area created a lot of heat steam with the right elements of Chromium and different elements that created Emerald. Emerald was born and formed within this area of the Boyacá Highlands. Now, this particular Emerald at that time was used predominantly by the locals, the Muzo Indians, at the time. It was predominantly used for religious purposes that date back, you know, 1,000 years or 500 years prior to the Spanish crusaders arriving. But basically you can see antique historical beads in the Colombian museums, etc. And it was actually a religious article that they believe protected them from different things, etc.
Then, the Spanish crusaders come along. Now, this is a war that breaks out between them and the Indians. Because this is a religious artifact they're protecting, the Emerald of Colombia that’s mined in the Muzo mines. It is a religious artifact for these people, and they fight three wars covering 50 years. It took 50 years for the Spanish crusaders to ultimately defeat the Muzo Indians and take possession of that deposit. And, of course, what they were doing at that time was they would mine out—they used the Indian locals as labor at that time. And they just mined out whatever they could, put it into ships, shipped it off to Spain, and then those Emeralds went to the royalty of Spain. And a lot of those Emeralds—and I've hunted down some important Emeralds that are historical Muzo Colombian Emeralds—a lot of those Emeralds ended up across Europe, a lot of them in Italy, for religious purposes.
Okay, so Elizabeth Taylor changed the game for Emeralds. When her brooch went up for sale and broke around the $200,000 a carat mark, that set a whole new expectation. Then you have the Rockefeller Emerald that came in and broke a new world record recently. That set me on a trajectory to go to Europe, and hunt down some of these rare Emeralds that I'd seen through the years of doing valuations, looking… I've done some things, I've worked with churches to evaluate the stones and some of their historical locations, and some of the historical pieces that are related to the church, etc, just to tell them what these stones are. And that's really what my expertise is, is trying, analyzing, understanding, identifying different stones from different locales, and building the history of these pieces.
So I had seen some of these pieces, and I did remember there was one Emerald that was like this really awkward shape, and it was in a scepter. And it was a 55.66 carat, unoiled, natural, antique, old school Muzo, Colombian. So I went and hunted it down. Took me a long time to get it, but I finally brought it back. And that's what will be called the Kat Florence eternal, legendary stone. You can read about it all online, it was a big deal, bringing this stone back. You can actually see it on the internet as well.
You know, I have a picture of me holding it up next to my eye. It's top crystal, it's electric neon green, it'll blow your head off colorwise, and it's the historical variety of Colombian Emeralds. But since then, over the 500 years, Colombian Emeralds have grabbed the minds of most people in the Emerald world. And they also hold the dominant position in the most expensive Emeralds ever sold at auction.
They are amazing. They have high Chromium concentration, so they sparkle. The vibrance is undeniable. And the color, it just pops. And because of Chromium, as opposed to Vanadium or other trace elements, it pops significantly. And it really, really is the dominant Emerald of the day today, and what is currently being mined, and everybody wants Colombian, and that's just the way it works.
Let's take a step back and talk about some of the rarest, most historical Emeralds in history.
And I'm going to take you to the Takovaya deposit of ancient Russia. Okay, so the Takovaya deposit is what everybody knows as the predominant producer and mine of the Alexandrite. This is where the Russian Alexandrite came from. But did you know that at the time, in the Takovaya deposit—this particular deposit was famous with the royalty, the czars of Russia. But they didn't want the Alexandrite. That was actually a byproduct. The Alexandrite was accidental. The predominant stone within this deposit was actually Emerald.
They wanted the Emerald. Emerald was a sign of wealth in the historic czars’ families, so when they used to go to a party, they would wear big Emeralds. And those Emeralds coming out of the Russian deposit of Takovaya are some of the finest-quality Emeralds I personally have ever seen.
Now, I tell you honestly, I've only ever seen less than 10 stones in my whole life. Because what happened is when the Russian Revolt happened, and they basically killed all the czars, or they were sent out and they all disappeared, they took their Emeralds with them. And all this wealth was scattered throughout the country, and you never saw these Emeralds, because they were always afraid to bring them to market. Because if they brought them to market, they might be held accountable for theft to the government or whatever, yada yada yada.
We don't know the exact reason, but you just never saw these Emeralds. There were new discoveries of Siberian Emerald, but they tend to be more of a lighter green. But if you ever look at the most important Takovaya Green Emeralds, they are neon. I mean, the best-quality green you've ever seen. And the clarities blow your head off. They blow your head off. They are really, really amazing. The finest depth of color in the finest clarity. There is just nothing in the world I've ever seen like it. I have seen Colombian of this quality, $50,000 a carat and up. Nobody can get this quality. I mean a clean, top neon, neon, top vivid deep green—extremely rare.
Now, Colombian Emeralds do get this color. They're very, very rare and they're very, very expensive. But they do get this color in the natural form as well. And I try to collect these when I can, and I give them to Kat Florence when I can. They’re very, very uncommon. If you look back at a lot of the antique Emeralds that I brought coming out of Europe, they hit this point as well, and they're just mind-blowing. I mean, just top of the line quality. So those are the two at the top of the spectrum of Emeralds.
Now, Emeralds also come out of Zambia. Now, who put Zambian Emerald on the map? Pretty much Gemfields. They basically mined the Zambian Emerald. Joint venture between Gemfields, the company, and the government of Zambia, they created the Gemfields Emerald Mine. And they hold auctions in Singapore, they hold auctions in India, they hold auctions in different places. And Zambian Emerald is pretty much dominated by the Jaipur market, just like heated Ruby and Sapphires pretty much dominated by the Chanthaburi market in Thailand. And a lot of Brazilian stones are dominated by the Teófilo Otoni market in Brazil. But the trading market for Zambian Emerald in the world today, the largest in the world, is the Jaipur market in India.
So if you want to see the Gemfields Emeralds of the world, in every quality and spectrum, people flood to Jaipur to see after the auctions, what takes place, and what's cut. Everything from the lower grades that are used in mass production—that you'll see all over the shops, and all the retail stores, and all the department stores, and all the outlets—to the finest quality Zambian material that could set you back $25,000 to $50,000 a carat.
And you have to understand, it's not that one mine is actually better than another in Emerald. You do get the best quality from all different deposits, pretty much. It really depends on the percentage of the best quality that comes from each deposit. So you'll see, like, the Russian material that I tend to see has a better concentration if it comes from the Takovaya—not the Siberian, but the Takovaya deposit. It has a better concentration of that vivid neon and top crystal. The Colombian just has that pop, right? That glow, that inner luster, that fire.
And the Zambian has depth of color. Tends to go more on the bluish green side; if you look at Zambian, you can get some bluish green. But you can also get good crystal. You can also see good fire. And they're the predominant, dominant Emerald in the market today, is basically the Zambian Emerald, taking the position from what's known as the Brazilian Emerald. You know, the Nova Era Emerald. And I buy a lot of rough from Nova Era, and I bought a lot of rough Emerald from pretty much all over the world, including Madagascar, including different locales across the world. But the Nova Era Emerald was the traditional deep green, not so clean.
What you see in the mass market, that is what basically dominated the Emerald world. And basically, that is what I supply a lot of rough for. I've been to a lot of the Gemfields auctions, I've been buying Zambian Emerald out of Zambia for a long time as well. But the prices have gone significantly up, due to the demand from the Indian cutters, who take a very strong stance on the controlling of these particular Emeralds. And they have done extremely well with it. So you'll see some of the finest quality Emeralds in the world today actually come out of Zambia, right? Because they manufacture them; they cut them down. And there's some good expertise around the cutters of these particular stones.
It's just very hard to get the rough, because these guys, they know their stuff. I mean, the Indian cutters in Jaipur are second, third generation in many cases, and they're the ones who dominated, also, Brazil rough. The Sokota Mines in Africa, all the different deposits across the world—Brazil, Africa, all the different locales—have pretty much been dominated by this particular market. Except for Colombia. Colombia stands alone, right? It's never been really a primary focus of this particular market, of the Jaipur market. They tended to go more with the Brazilian, the African, and the Zambian materials.
So this is the education about Emeralds. Emeralds are on the uprise. They constantly are, because people love the color of Emerald in every grade and every quality, I tell you. But if you can get Emerald that has luster, that has crystallization, that has brilliance, that has luster and fire—that is rare. That is very, very uncommon. Because 99%—I would say, almost all Emeralds in the world—are included. I mean, like, totally included. But you always expect to have some inclusions with Emeralds.
But how crystallized is it? How much fire is coming out of it? How's the color of it? Is it poppin’? Is it sparkling? And, you know, my definition is: if it looks like a Paraiba, it's a great Emerald. Right? If it sparkles like Paraiba, it's amazing. Right? If it's an Emerald that sparkles like Paraiba, because most Emeralds are dull. They're ugly, they're sleepy. They got good color, they're green, but that's what the mass market is. So you see a lot of Emeralds out there that are just dead green. There's no fire; there's no life. It's just color.
Personally, what's rare—and if you look at rough on a regular basis, you'll see what's rare—is Crystal. If you can get Crystal Emerald, that is what you should be looking for. That is what's unique. That is what the world has very little of. That is what is always going to go up in value, in my opinion.
I hope you enjoyed this podcast, my education on Emeralds. I wish I could cover more and more, but I have to breathe. Doing all this in one take is not easy, but it doesn't matter. Because I love it. I love it. I love talking gems. I love sharing with the world. I hope you've enjoyed.