This is a question that many people have asked me for years, every day. It’s the biggest concern for anyone shopping for emeralds or is simply curious about this exotic gem. Sometimes the explanation is hard to understand because there are not many good examples in the marketplace you can refer to for comparison. Not all jewelry stores have a nice variety of natural emeralds or have good information about them.
If you are not a gemologist, the jargon and methods used to grade quality can be hard to understand. From my side of the jewelry counter, I may look at as many as 7 different features of each stone. From your side of the counter you need to know simple but important things to make your own decision. For someone looking for an engagement ring, for the ladies that love gems and want some idea of what to look for, or for someone looking for that special gift that shows how much you care, there are four very important qualities of natural emeralds that you can assess yourself, Color, Clarity, Brilliancy and Size. We’ll discuss color first.
Color is the biggest factor in establishing the value and quality in natural emeralds. Color is divided into: Hue, Tonal Grade, and Saturation. Hue refers to the kind of green color the emerald has. It gives a name to the color. Most of the Colombian emeralds present a “bluish green”.
Tonal grade establishes the degree of darkness or lightness of the green color in the gem. Natural emeralds present a wide variety of green tones:
Very Light, Light, Medium Light, Medium, Medium Dark, Very Dark.
Many people consider that a good emerald is dark green. Most of the literature about these gems will say that a good emerald will have a Tonal grade from Medium to Very Dark. Be careful because this is only one part of the color feature. Color is only one of the factors that make the value in these gems.
How vivid and how much power the green has is as important as how dark it is. That is what we call Saturation in the color. Saturation is the strength or intensity of the color, ranging from a dull hue (green) to a pure vivid hue. That’s why you will find emeralds with a dark green color but at the same time they are dull or “flat”, having a dead look that is not exciting and doesn’t speak to you.
In the same way you will find a light green colored emerald that is full of life, one that catches your eye in the display case and you can not stop looking at it. That mysterious power grabs your attention and you cannot explain why. So…light green is not always a bad thing.
When you mix the Tonal grade and Saturation you will have the color in an emerald. In the market the most expensive emeralds are the ones with high saturation and a Tonal Grade between Medium and Medium Dark. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy a Medium Light with nice saturation or vivid green emerald. You can’t imagine how many customers I have had who were looking for a dark green emerald “because those are the good ones” –they say- and can’t help falling in love with a Medium Light Tonal Grade emerald with good saturation.
“I haven’t seen emeralds in this kind of green color.” “I didn’t like emeralds because I though they came just in dark dull green…” “I can’t tell what it is about this stone that I love.” “I have seen emeralds but not like these.” “My mom has an emerald but it doesn’t looks like yours.”
These are the phrases I’m very happy to hear and I hear them all the time. We have a nice selection of emeralds, a selection that you normally won’t see in traditional jewelry stores. Some of them are dark and some light, some with a high saturation some with low saturation…but all of them are beautiful.
Color is only one part of the quality in natural emeralds. I’ll talk about Clarity in my next blog.