Emeralds part 3

Emeralds Part 3… Firstly a recap of parts 1 & 2. Even God had an adoration for emeralds since it was one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon to ensure the King’s power. The Egyptian Queen of the Nile Cleopatra loved them, as did Halle Berry, Helen Hutton and Elizabeth Taylor.   


So what are they?  Put simply emeralds are from the Beryl family of gemstones containing trace amounts of chromium, iron and sometimes vanadium, which give emeralds their vibrant ravishing colour.  Emeralds over any other gemstone can have significant inclusions which is never seen as a negative in emeralds.  Any other gemstone that is heavily included, might as well stay in the ground where it is, from the point of view of those who buy and love beautiful jewels. But when talking to a Gem Nerd, a GNd, there is nothing we love more. 


So what are inclusions and why are they so important?  Inclusions tell us more about gemstones than almost any other aspect of the stone. Inclusions separate the natural from the man-made and that is instrumental in determining the stone's authenticity, value and price. Man as a creator is not too bad, but nature is the creator extraordinaire.  Go figure!  


Man-made emeralds, synthetic emeralds or lab-grown emeralds are one and the same thing.  The jewellery trade also has many and many creative misnomers for these emeralds.  Simply put any stone that has been created by man no matter what name it goes by, is not a natural gemstone and therefore this fact must be disclosed to the consumer.  This however has not always been the case. In 2005 the ACCC launched a publication regarding disclosure and placed the jewellery industry on notice, thereby giving the consumer greater power.  However, it is also up to the consumer to ask the question “Is it natural?”  Most sales people do not have any gemstone knowledge, to them an emerald is an emerald, and yes that is true all natural and synthetic emeralds are optically, chemically and physically the same.  It is only the inclusions that separate them, like all other natural stones and their synthetic counter parts.  Most jewellers would never employ a gemmologist, as we are bound by a code of ethics that makes disclosure paramount.  


I saw a high street jeweller’s catalogue once touting a 50-75% price reduction of emerald, ruby and sapphire rings.  Next to each photograph were asterisks, they were so small that you would have missed them. These asterisks related to the terms and condition on the back page, these terms and conditions you needed a magnifying glass to read.  Here it stated that the gemstones were synthetic and not natural.  Now is that disclosure? I think not.  Being a snake in the grass, I slithered into the shop in question and told the shop assistant that my partner’s birthday was in May and I wanted to surprise them with an emerald ring.  I also told them that I had seen their sale catalogue and wondered if they had anything a bit more magnificent and that it did not necessarily have to be on sale.  


After being shown several items, I asked the pertinent question “Is it natural?”  The answer I got was “It’s an emerald”. The size, the colour and clarity were far too good for it to be a natural emerald in a high street jeweller, at the price it was being sold for.  I told the sales assistant that I had noted the terms on their sales catalogue and that it had stated that their stones were synthetic so that is why I am wondering if this emerald was natural.  Looking a bit bewildered, the sales assistant replied “It’s an emerald”. I thanked her for her help and slithered out of the shop. Poor training is no excuse for misleading customers.


It was as early as 1848, when the first synthetic or lab grown emerald crystal was synthesised by a French chemist using the flux process. However, in 1935, the first marketable synthetic crystal was made by American Carroll Chatham and the jewellery market has used them ever since.  Advancing technology has once again created other methods to produce them and Lechleitner synthesised emeralds hydrothermally in 1960. There are now many producers of synthetic emeralds and about 5,000 to 6,000 carats per year of facetted synthetic emeralds reach the market. 

And finally, there is nothing wrong with synthetic emeralds as there is nothing wrong with any other synthetic gemstone; as long as their man made origin is clearly disclosed to the buyer. Synthetics are another option for the consumer, many may purchase synthetic emeralds and enjoy them because they can often have a better colour and clarity in comparison with many natural emeralds. Consumers obtain superior appearance, and carat size at a substantially lower cost they might never be able to afford if they purchased a natural emerald that was of the same colour, size and clarity.