Posts Tagged ‘how to buy an emerald’

Durability in Emeralds

As she removed the ring from her finger it slipped from her grasp and fell to the center of the glass display case.  Her face changed color and with a timid voice said, “I’m so sorry!”  “Not a problem,” I said, picking up the ring from the display case and showing her and her husband that nothing had happened to the ring or the emerald.  Then she said, “If the emerald didn’t break, maybe it’s not a real one.  They are very fragile.”

The lady thought that natural emeralds are so fragile that they couldn’t resist something like dropping them 12” onto a display case.  While I wouldn’t want to drop them on purpose, they can withstand a lot more abuse than most people think.  As I explained to the lady, there are a lot of factors that decide how fragile a stone will be, particularly after it is set.  Here are a few things I told her, and a few things you may find interesting about emerald durability.

Emerald Cut Emerald in Traditional V-Prong Setting

Most of the information about durability in emeralds says how delicate and weak this gem is.  But in reality, emeralds are not all that fragile.  The Mohs scale of mineral hardness identifies how easily a gemstone is scratched.  Diamonds are at the top of the scale at 10.  After them come rubies and sapphires at 9, topaz at 8 and emeralds are from 7.5 to 8.  They are in the same range as aquamarines, most quartz and tourmalines, and above tanzanite (6.5 – 7), turquoise (5 – 6), onyx (6.5 – 7), zircon (6.5 – 7.5), opal (5.5 – 6.5) and pearls (2.5 -4.5).

Even though emeralds are relatively hard stones, the presence of fractures and inclusions that give each stone its personality and unique beauty can also affect their toughness. The liquids, gases and crystals inside these gems create challenges to those who work with the stones.  The gem cutter must avoid touching any inclusions with his cutting disk or he may break the stone.  The setter, the person in charge of putting the stone into a piece of jewelry, can break a stone  just by pushing the stone into the setting if there are fissures near a corner of the stone.

All this talk about breaking stones may sound like a bad thing, but the good news is that if you see an emerald that has inclusions only in its center far from any surface or corner, durability of the gem will not be a problem.  A good cutter will isolate the inclusions in the center of the stone and the setter will design a setting that will protect the stone where it is most likely to be bumped by the wearer under normal circumstances.  Yes, emeralds can be fragile but the cutter and setter have already taken most of the risks, much more than the wearer of a well designed piece of jewelry will ever have.

Here are some things I always tell my customers who are still concerned about an emerald’s durability.  You do have a choice where to wear your emerald.  Stones worn as pendants, earrings, or brooches are far less likely to be bumped or otherwise abused than stones set in rings and bracelets.  But more important than anything else is the setting.

Emerald in a bezel setting

A bezel setting goes all the way around the stone, covering its whole edge.  A V-Prong setting for cuts with corners, e.g. emerald cuts and pear shapes, is also a great option.  It encloses the most fragile parts, the corners, with metal. Any of these two give very good protection to any gem and will be the perfect choice for rings that you will like to wear every day.

V-Prong Setting

Because a setting is so important to the protection of an emerald, some jewelers don’t feel comfortable working with them.  They will have to be more careful when they work with these gems than when working with diamonds.  Just to make a small repair like resizing a ring or replacing a prong, they will have to take the emerald out of the setting, make the repair, and then put the gem back in the setting. It is a risk that some jewelers prefer not to take.

We at Queen Emerald always try to build all our jewelry pieces with the assumption that you will want to wear them every day and all the time.  That is why every single piece is made by hand, every single setting is made for an individual stone, and all the prongs are bigger and wider than traditional prongs.

The best advice I can give is to enjoy your emeralds.  If you have one of our pieces already you can wear it with confidence every day.  It was made with just for that purpose.  Just remember, ANYTHING can be broken and because you are wearing a unique and exclusive jewelry piece it needs to be treated with a little care.

Bezel setting for a round cut emerald in 18K white gold

Which Emerald is a good Emerald? CARAT WEIGHT

Carat Weight

In the last three blogs we discussed grade color, clarity, and brilliance.  This blog is dedicated to the last of the four characteristics of emeralds that you can judge for yourself, size and carat weight, and how it affects the value of these beautiful gems.

Most of the time when we indicate the size of an emerald we do it in carats. A carat is a unit of weight equivalent to 0.20 grams.  In the jewelry trade we use this as “synonym” of size. Both are directly related and most of the time that we talk about size we talk about carat weight more than millimeters or inches.

5.90 Ct. uncut natural Colombian emerald in 18K white gold pendant

For people that is not familiar with jewelry and precious gems the term carat can be confused with “karats”. These are two totally different things.  The term karat is used as a measurement of gold purity (24 Kt gold, 18 Kt gold, 14Kt gold…) and it doesn’t have anything to do with a gem’s size and weight. In the same way when we talk about carats in emeralds or any other gems it won’t be related to its quality or purity.

As the carat weight increases so does the price of the gem and more importantly, the price per carat.  This can be calculated by dividing stone price by its carat weight. Larger emeralds are rarer than smaller ones and very difficult to find in mines. On average, they have to remove 5 tons of dirt to find an emerald over 1 carat in gem quality. That is why a 3 carat emerald will cost more than three emeralds of 1 carat each of the same quality.

I know the jewelry and gem market is obsessed with size, and nearly everyone thinks “bigger is better”.  But when we talk about emeralds, size without quality is not always better. For the fans of size, the quality in emeralds is something that will speak loudly, but the bigger the emerald the louder its quality will speak. With diamonds, you have to be familiar with them and will need to examine them with a loupe to tell if a 3 carat diamond is a good one or not. But a three carat emerald will tell you everything about itself even if you are not an expert.

When you work with colored stones the really important part is the COLOR more than the size.  Put two emeralds together, one in 1 carat and other in 2 carats.  If the smaller one has better tone and saturation than the larger one, I can guarantee, your eyes will go directly to that one.  Your attention and your admiration will be focused on the smaller one.

Please don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing more beautiful than a 3, 4 or 5 carat emerald, no matter what the quality. If is a natural one I know I’ll enjoy it. But its beauty is also because it will show its real color, clarity and brilliancy and if you are not familiar with these features it maybe not a good choice for you.

The magic happens when you have a big emerald of a great quality. Believe me, this doesn’t happen really often, and that is why the price doesn’t change in a Linear Scale of increments.

In the end is up to you and what you like. If you have a big emerald enjoy it, they are really one of a kind.  Don’t be too concerned about its quality.  Please note your stone is very special and difficult to find. So just have fun with it.

Uncut natural emerald from Colombia