Emeralds are precious gemstones that belong to the beryl family. Their special greens are rare and unusual due to two chemical elements: chromium and vanadium. For thousands of years, emeralds have been mined and considered one of the world’s most valuable jewels. The history of emeralds dates back to ancient Egypt, when they were particularly coveted and admired by Queen Cleopatra.
Spanish conquistadors discovered what we now call Colombian Emeralds. Colombia was occupied by Muzo Indians, who were overpowered by Spain in the mid 1600’s. Historians believe that these indigenous Indians mastered the art of mining as early as 500 AD. After Colombia’s independence from Spain, the new government and other private mining companies assumed mining operations.
How Many Mines are There in Colombia?
Colombia is surrounded by Amazonian forests and the Andes mountain range that runs along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The eastern portion of the Andes, between Boyaca and Cundinamarca, is where most Colombian emeralds are mined.
The three major mining areas in Colombia are found in Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. Muzo and Coscuez are on long-term lease to two Colombian consortiums from the government, while Chivor is a privately owned mine.
What makes Colombian Emeralds Special?
Other countries, such as Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Zambia, own 15% of the world’s emerald mines. But it’s the emeralds of Colombia that stand out the most. Colombian emeralds are much sought after, and not just because of their superb quality and color.
A gem’s value depends upon its size, purity, color and brilliance. Even when they’re mined in the same area, each individual emerald has its own unique look. A deep green emerald is the scarcest, most beautiful and most expensive of its kind. This type of gem is rare and is only found in the deepest parts of Colombia.
Famous Colombian Emeralds in History
Discover more about some of the world’s most famous Colombian emeralds:
- Devonshire Emerald – The Devonshire emerald was named after the sixth Duke of Devonshire. This precious stone can now be viewed in the vault of the Natural History Museum in London.
- Patricia Emerald – This 630-carat, di-hexagonal stone was discovered in 1920. It was named after the mine owner’s daughter, Patricia. It now resides in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
- Iran Crown Jewel – The finest of all Colombian emeralds lies safely in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington—the Iran crown Jewel. It contains the most emeralds in a piece of jewelry, and features stones between 1500 to 2000 carats.
- Crown of Andes – One of the most famous pieces of Colombian emerald jewelry is the Crown of Andes. It has 453 stones weighing 1,521 carats each. This piece includes the 45-carat Atahualpa Emerald, which was named after the last Inca emperor.
Colombian emeralds are well-known for their value. They’ve been worn by kings and nobles since ancient times. The fact that Queen Cleopatra was so in love with this stone says a great deal about its elegance. The emerald is not just a symbol of wealth—it also represents everlasting power and beauty. What a winning combination.
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