Emeralds are considered one of the “big three” in precious gemstones, a classic jewel regularly used in high-end jewelry. But what differentiates one emerald from another? There are many factors that determine their value. If you’re in the market for emerald jewelry, here’s what you need to know about the most desirable qualities of this beautiful gemstone.
Generally speaking, when you’re shopping for gemstones, the most valuable stones are those with no visible inclusions. However, that isn’t really the case for emeralds, because all natural emeralds have some inclusions that are visible to the naked eye or with a jeweler’s loupe. In fact, most emeralds receive some treatment to reduce the appearance of these inclusions during the lapidary process, which is not considered to affect the value of the stone. Only a synthetic emerald (much less valuable) might be perfectly clear—some are even given artificial inclusions to look more genuine. Thus, inclusions are a sign of an emerald’s authenticity. Emeralds that are considered “eye clear” are extremely rare, and quite valuable. It is only when inclusions are so numerous that they negatively affect the stone’s transparency that they can reduce an emerald’s value.
An emerald’s brilliant green color is produced by trace amounts of chromium, vanadium, and iron. An individual stone can have a varying amount of each, and thus an emerald’s color can range from bluish green to yellow-green. The exact hue may hint at a stone’s origins—for example, emeralds from Zambia tend to be on the blue-green side, while emeralds from Brazil and Colombia are a more pure green. In general, the more intense the color, the more valuable the stone. Stones that are extremely light or extremely dark (so much so that the transparency is reduced) cost less per carat.
Emeralds are often cut in a rectangular shape, known as an emerald cut, to both enhance the natural color of the stone and to protect against chipping or breaking. Although they are resistant to scratches, emeralds tend to be somewhat brittle, and their natural inclusions can make them prone to fracturing. However, whatever the cut of the stone, it should enhance its natural sparkle and color.
While you can find emeralds in sizes ranging from truly tiny to huge, very fine grades of emeralds over one carat are rare. In general, a larger emerald will be worth more if its color and clarity are also good. If you have two stones with the same overall color and clarity, the larger one will be more valuable.
The overall value of an individual emerald is determined by a combination of these factors—a small but unusually clear emerald of gorgeous green may very well cost more than a much larger light-green emerald that looks cloudy from numerous inclusions. The best way to get a feel for the way these combinations can affect price is to shop around and compare prices.
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