Colombian Emeralds in Cartagena
Verdant greens and complicated depths have made emeralds one of humankind’s most coveted stones for over 4,000 years. From pre-historic times through today these one-of-a-kind natural wonders have captivated emperors, shamans, kings and queens, movie stars, the elite, and everyday folks alike. Colombia offers some of the most exquisite emeralds around and the shops in Cartagena make finding the perfect one for you an enjoyable adventure.
The History of the Emerald in Colombia
Ancient peoples of Colombia created many myths around these lustrous green stones. In fact, the Colombian creation myth of Fura and Tena (very similar to Adam and Eve) is deeply tied to the emeralds mined from Colombia’s mountainous region. When these two lovers, created by the hand of the god Ares, failed to stay true to each other they were cursed and turned into the twin valleys that mark the entrance to Colombia’s emerald producing region. Separated for all eternity, Fura cried tears lamenting her sin that hardened into veins of emerald.
While local indigenous peoples have been commercially mining emeralds as far back as 500 B.C., the Spanish Empire was responsible for mass-marketing emeralds to the world and turning the mountains of Colombia into the prolific emerald producing region it is today.
The Colombian Emerald Museum Corporation was created in Cartagena to help preserve the cultural heritage of these valuable stones. In addition to valuable educational material, the museum also houses a variety of gorgeous stones and bedazzled pieces of jewelry created from some of the most famous stones in the world.
What Makes a Colombian Emerald Special?
Emeralds of any sort represent the upper tier of green stones in the beryl family of gems. Like all gemstones, emeralds are graded on the four C’s (Cut, Clarity, Color, Carat weight). However, to even be called an emerald the stone in question must have a color that’s graded at least 75% on the tone scale (where 0% is colorless and 100% is completely opaque). Anything less is simply considered green beryl.
While green must be the primary color, many stones exhibit additional tones including yellow-green and blue-green making them uniquely desirable. The tone of the stone as well as the color will affect the asking price.
Nearly 90% of all the emeralds in the world come from Colombia. These stones are often considered of a much higher quality than emeralds found elsewhere. Colombia’s unique geography allows emeralds to form in softer sedimentary rock where they are washed pure of contaminants that cloud stones from other regions of the world.
However, because of the way the stone is formed, emeralds often have multiple microscopic surface cracks. Thus they are not judged to the loupe standard that diamonds are. They’re judge by the naked eye. Often these small cracks are filled in with cedar oil and other synthetic liquids to improve the clarity of the gems. Many times they are cut into cabochons rather than faceted stones to prevent breakage.
However, an emerald is beautiful in any form and Cartagena is the perfect place to find that perfect stone for you. This port city has been the heart of Colombia’s emerald trade for centuries. Even today there are a number of exceptional shops in which visitors can browse and purchase stones ranging from affordable to exceptional.
Commercial grade stones are plentiful and available from just $300 per carat. These make wonderful gifts for family and friends or gorgeous accent pieces for jewelry that will be worn every day. Fine and Extra fine stones are exceedingly rare and can run anywhere from $10,000 to $90,000 per carat. These, of course, are showstoppers and are generally reserved for statement pieces or investment pieces.
However, in between the two extremes there are a huge variety of stones and wearable pieces to fit any aesthetic and budget.
If you’re staying in Cartagena for business or pleasure, take some time to browse some of the unique creations crafted with these historic and culturally significant stones. Come home with a piece of Colombia all your own.