Diamonds dazzle and impress, but they infamously tend to leave people cold. As ethereal as sapphires, their icy beauty doesn’t immediately warm hearts. Out of the big three precious gemstones, it is the emerald that is the most endearing. Its life-affirming green colour – words like lush and limpid are thrown around liberally – evokes feelings of well being. From Aristotle and Cleopatra to Indian royalty and global film stars – remember the no-frills 115-carat Colombian drop emeralds worn by Angelina Jolie at the 2009 Oscars – emeralds are universally adored. But there’s a fair bit to understand how to buy emeralds.
Gardens of Joy
Ask any gemologist and they will tell you that flawless means little in the world of emeralds. Inclusions are not just forgiven, they are often the source of the emerald’s appeal. These fine tendril/branch-like inclusions referred to as ‘Jardin’ (a garden in French) are the result of chromium and vanadium that react with beryllium (the base mineral of emeralds) and also impart the stunning green colour. Think of it like looking at underwater life from one of those green-tinted, glass-bottomed boats. When transparent, both popular gems from the beryl family – emerald and aquamarine – showcase magical inclusions.
The Mighty Greens
Of late, Kagem – the world’s largest emerald mine located in Zambia – has produced a bounty, topping its kitty with the 1.1 kg Inkalamu (it was recently purchased by Indian jewellery brand DiaColor). At a whopping 5,655 carats, this gorgeous emerald – it means lion in the local Bemba language – catapulted into the world’s record-breaking emeralds list last month. But African emeralds have always played second fiddle to Colombian whoppers. Two world record breakers, the velvety green 37.8-carat Chalk Emerald from the Maharani of Baroda’s trousseau and the 217.80-carat Moghul Emerald that once belonged to Aurangzeb, expertly carved on both sides with a Shi’a Muslim prayer by Indian gem cutters, were mined in Colombia. Then, there is an infamous Brazilian giant, more scary than beautiful. The 180,000-carat Bahia Emerald, a 4-ft rough rock with protruding emerald crystals that currently sits in a government vault in Los Angeles has a dramatic history including court battles, mafia wars, and a tryst with Hurricane Katrina.
Amorous or Mercurial
Emeralds have often been associated with romance and are thus linked with hedonistic and pleasure-loving Taureans. The fertile, vivid green colour might have something to do with fuelling this somewhat misplaced alliance. The ruling planet of the emerald is actually the other May baby, Mercury. Like the quick-witted planet of communication, emeralds are recommended for enhancing intellect, memory, and analytical prowess as well as intuition. For the best of both worlds – Taurus-Gemini combinations, listen up – the pairing of emeralds and diamonds is a cosmic and aesthetic tour de force.
Friends and Styling Partners of Emeralds
The alliance of emeralds and diamonds – think emerald drops on a diamond necklace or massive emerald ear clips with diamond jackets – is a timeless classic. Mossy green emeralds with light blue or yellow sapphires, set together in glamorous cocktail rings, make for an organic combination of primary and secondary colours. Darker (Indian) cabochon emeralds set with rubies in an old school gold necklace (like the Tamilian manga malai) or lighter cabochons with pink rubies in a Victorian-style bracelet evoke vintage charm. The bold orange-red hue of Indian corals plays off beautifully against the delicacy of emeralds for an edgy look in contemporary designs. To channel an aquatic theme, wear tumbled bead necklaces of emeralds, aquamarine, light green turquoise and jade, styled together on a crisp white shirt.
The Emerald Buying Care Cheat Sheet
· Oiling emeralds to fill in the fissures and enhance colour is common practice, but using dye-enhanced oil is a no-no. Always buy from reputed dealers and confirm enhancements.
· Zero inclusions (as seen under the loupe) is a big warning sign that the emerald is fake.
· A higher saturation and darker hue are desirable, but true connoisseurs show love for lighter coloured well-cut stones with a satiny/velvety finish. You’ll get them relatively cheaper than darker colours.
· Emeralds are infamously fragile and chip easily. Entrust the setting of your emeralds to an experienced setter/karigar, and don’t fire him if one or two of smaller stones break anyway.
· For emeralds set in rings for everyday use, opt for a closed setting as opposed to a claw setting, if you’re a rough user.