Emeralds have been prized since ancient times for their majestic green colour and rarity. Helen Molesworth, managing director of Gübelin Academy, explains why.

Why are emeralds so coveted?

Because they are the best and best known of the green gems. They have been valued as long as any coloured gemstone, and the unique gems from Colombia can show an extraordinarily well-saturated vivid gem green. Colombian emeralds rank in the upper echelons of top quality gemstones, and quality is the main focus in coloured gemstone collecting today. One of the best emeralds was a world-record breaker, and was recently sold at Christie’s from Afghanistan.

Why are they considered rare?

Emeralds are rare because of their unique formation. Extremely unusual elements, such as chromium and vanadium, give emeralds their stunning and sought-after vivid green. But to form an emerald, they must crystallise alongside beryllium: another very rare element. These elements do not occur together naturally underground, so for them to come together is an even more rare occurrence – making the beautiful emerald a mini miracle of nature. And naturally-mined emeralds contain numerous inclusions or imperfections which make each stone unique.

The earliest written reference to emeralds goes back 4,500 years, in hieroglyphics
Helen Molesworth, managing director, Gübelin Academy 

Why do emeralds rank at the top among the Big Three – rubies, sapphires, emeralds?

The earliest written reference to emeralds goes back 4,500 years, in hieroglyphics. Rubies may be the record breakers, price wise, representing power and passion, while sapphires are the true blue heavenly gems, but only emeralds can boast a history like this among precious gems. A hard hexagonal mineral of the beryl family, naturally mined emeralds contain numerous inclusions; imperfections that make each stone completely unique. 

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