Zambian Emerald: Part Four

| 3 min read

Zambian Emeralds emerge on the gem market

Zambian Emeralds have a unique creation story. Through a lucky combination of high temperatures and low pressures, with just the right cocktail of ingredients, they are some of the most beautiful Emeralds ever discovered. But with Colombian Emeralds hailed on the market as the highest quality, how could Zambian Emeralds compete?

The global Emerald market

Initially, when commercial mining in Zambia began in 2008, Colombian Emerald maintained its market position as the leading source for Emerald. The reality is, after a discovery there is always a delay for the market to respond to a new source. It usually takes around two years for buyers to get to know any new gem. During this time, the rough gem material finds its way to cutting houses for faceting before making its way to the wider market.

As over 90% of the world’s Emeralds are cut in Jaipur in India, it is not surprising that Zambian Emerald rough material quickly found its way to this Mecca of lapidary. Before this new supply emerged, cutting houses in Jaipur were mostly cutting Emeralds from Brazil. Although Colombian Emeralds were world-famous, the numbers reaching the market were not enough to keep the huge numbers of gem-cutting workers in Jaipur in employment. Just three Colombian mines were producing good quality stones – the mines of Muzo, Cosquez and Chivor. So the vast majority of stones cut in Jaipur were of Brazilian origin, which is an origin which gives a large range of quality.

This range of quality means that prices on the market for Brazilian Emeralds is notoriously difficult to predict. Brazil actually has a huge number of Emerald mines, but most of them are extremely small in scale. With these smaller mines, gem cutting houses would form a relationship with one or two mines, and annually purchase the run of the mine. This means that they would have to take all the grades the mines produce. In these smaller mines, they are unlikely to have invested in gem sorting facilities, so the lots of gem rough they sell won’t be well sorted by quality. This means that all the risk involved in cutting the material is transferred to the cutting houses. In a year where the mine produces great grade rough, the cutting house is able to produce great quality Emerald at a relatively low price. However, the next year the same mine could produce rough of a very low grade. This will be purchased at close to the price of last year’s material, resulting in a much lower grade of Emerald, priced relatively highly. As a result, buyers in the market found it extremely difficult to establish consistent grades with Brazilian Emerald, which in turn made it difficult to establish consistent pricing. In such circumstances, the price of Brazilian Emerald was always volatile.

Zambian Emerald's emergence

However, this all changed when Zambian Emeralds emerged on the market in commercial quantities. Zambian Emeralds were given 200 separate grades and established a standard that buyers could understand and value when purchasing rough or cut stones. Zambian Emerald was soon able to supply the entire Jaipur market. Cutting houses were being offered an Emerald that buyers found attractive due to the standardized grading processes, with a disclosed provenance, which kept their teams busy all year round. It took less than two years for Zambian Emerald to replace Brazilian Emerald as the gem of choice for lapidarists in the center of Emerald cutting.

Finally, with their extraordinary good-looks, Zambian Emeralds have finally found the recognition in the market that they so truly deserve.

Beautiful Emeralds

Find your perfect Zambian Emerald here.

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