Emeralds, the cut vibrant green Beryl crystals, are some of the most popular gems on the market and were the choice stones in Victorian engagement rings. Just like diamonds, buying emeralds could be worthwhile investments, but there are some guidelines to what distinguishes a good stone from a bad stone. As they say, “All that glitters is not gold”. I will discuss the criteria that make an emerald truly great, but do consult with a gemologist before investing in a stone.
Emeralds are first and foremost known for their color. The best emeralds have a deep, vivid green color, a perfect balance of blue and yellow tones. The color should not be too pale or too dark and evenly distributed throughout the stone.
The next important factor is clarity. When buying an emerald, you should look for a stone with the least amount of visible inclusions. The way light catches inclusions could affect color, luster and the overall color and depth of the stone. Though inclusions can affect a stone’s value considerably, no one factor is the deciding factor in a stone’s value. Inclusions can sometimes be filled in, but such modifications do affect stone value, and so, it is often better to have a stone with a few inclusions than a modified stone.
Size is also an important factor, but does not contribute to quality. Though is important, it is lower than quality on that scale, especially since a 3 carat stone could be astronomically cheaper than a 4 or 5 carat stone. Most gemologists would agree that quality should trump size and that it is a better idea to invest in quality than carat.
Though it has nothing to do with the actual composition of the stone or its quality, the place of origin has a huge impact on value. The gold standard place of origin for emeralds is Colombia, though Zambian, Brazilian and Afghan stones can be of very similar quality. Place of origin is a bit like branding, just as a Prada bag will be far more expensive than a bag of equal quality from an unknown or small designer. Since place of origin cannot be measured like color, clarity or size, a certificate is the only way to ascertain that a Colombian emerald is really a Colombian emerald. When investing in a Colombian stone, do not rely on the seller to tell the truth, always make sure the stone has a valid certificate, by GIA, Gubelin or AGL.
Speaking of certificates, this is one of the most important factors in buying an emerald. Certificates are like stone passports, detailing where they were mined, cut and what (if any) modifications were made. To make sure your stone is a good investment, and stays so for decades, a certificate is the only way a buyer would trust that the stone is exactly what the seller says it is. Getting a certificate for a stone is as easy as paying a fee and sending it to a reputable lab, however, not too many sellers would send their stones to labs in case the stone would depreciate in price.
Brilliant emeralds can be found anywhere, including estate sales and small corner boutiques. You should not judge an emerald on the store it came from, and it goes for both very reputable stores and holes-in-the-wall. You are more likely to find a great one at a reputable shop, but the point is that you should not settle for the first stone that catches your fancy. Visit many places and compare the stones you find. The more you see, the more informed your decision would be, and the better the chance that you will walk away with the best stone available.