Natural Colombian Emeralds
Columbian Emeralds
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Cradle of Civilization

Before other cultures appreciated diamonds, rubies or sapphires, Early Egyptians mined and fashioned emeralds at a site later called the "Cleopatra Mines". Ancient Aztecs valued emeralds, above all other possessions.

In the sixteenth century, as technology was rapidly making the world a smaller place, the coming of Spanish Conquistadors to the new world was a significant event in the history of the emerald. Finding natives with emeralds, they searched for their mines, eventually penetrating the dense mountain jungles of what is now central Colombia. Spain's conquistadors had discovered the world's most magnificent source of emeralds.

The Muzo Indians who controlled the area, initially defended their heritage. They associated emeralds, as many cultures have, with eternal life and the promise of a bountiful harvest. Native Colombians culminated their annual religious ceremony with great extravagances. They adorned their king with gold and emeralds by coating his body in sticky resin and covering it entirely with gold and emerald dust. Their priests then bathed him in the emerald green mountain lake called "Guatavita", tossing offerings and adornments into its depths. This is also the source of the Spanish legend of El Dorado, "the golden one".

The epic struggle between the Muzo Indians and the soldiers played on. Descendants of the Muzos and their philosophical brothers, the "Guaqueros", who for decades had dug daily for emeralds outside the big mines, still believe that no one but them has rights to the gems. As a consequence, the history of Colombian emerald mining has been one of almost continuous conflict.

In very few places is the search for gems more violent than in Colombia. Nowhere else are the rewards so great, the risk so high, and the treasure itself so magnificent. The quest for Colombian emeralds is everything that gem mining should and should not be. Most U.S dealers prefer waiting at home until Colombian sellers arrive with emeralds.

Unlike diamonds, the market prices for emeralds are uncontrolled and extremely competitive. This is why emeralds are less expensive than diamonds, even though they are far more rare.

Spain sold Colombian emeralds around the globe to Europe's kings and queens, India's maharajahs, Turkey's sultans, and Persia's shahs, all of whom assembled huge emerald treasures. As the treasures grew, so did the legend of the emerald, adding to the original Egyptian.


Renaissance Europeans contributed their scientific advances and mechanical abilities to centuries of lapidary skills. In their hands, what was rough craft became humanistic art. The Europe of their day burgeoned with world trade, art, and science just as in our world today. Colonial conquests produced more gems, and out of these vast treasuries, wealthy rulers commissioned great personal adornments. New light gathering and reflection concepts were applied. Cutting and polishing with imported diamond grit and emery improved old grinding techniques.During the next 500 years jewelers mastered the art of faceting. This is the art of determining the angles, numbers and placement of tiny flat polished reflective surfaces that help gems sparkle.In the 16th century, advances in sailing technology resulted in the worldwide export of emeralds. Now, in the 21st century, computerized inventories and Internet technology are creating a new worldwide market for Colombian emeralds.Emerald Elegance has found the emerald industry to be very much rooted in the 19th century. We are now proud to be part of the emerald history, as we move this industry into the 21st century.Welcome to the new Emerald Renaissance. Soon the world will be rediscovering the Colombian emeralds. Invest in elegance.Special thanks to Fred Ward who has contributed significantly to this site. We highly recommend his book "Emeralds". Emeralds is part of a series of nine gem books written and photographed by Fred Ward. Each book, Emeralds, Diamonds, Pearls, Opal, Jade, Rubies & Shaphires, Gems Care, Diamonds in Russia, and Jades of Mesoamerica is part a of 22-year global search into the history, geology, lore and sources of these priceless treasures. He personally visited all the sites and artifacts displayed here to provide the most authentic and timely information available in the field. Fred Ward´s original articles on these topics first appeared in the National Geographic Magazine.Mr. Ward, a respected authority on gems and gemology, is in great demand as a speaker to professional and private groups. He regularly contributes articles to the gem press.

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