Emeralds - One of the most valuable gemstones in the world

Emeralds - One of the most valuable gemstones in the world

Emeralds are a precious gemstone that has captivated the hearts of people for centuries. They are known for their stunning green colour created from chromium and/or vanadium and are considered one of the most valuable gemstones in the world. The history of emerald mining is a long and fascinating one, filled with stories of adventure, discovery, and trade.

The history of emerald mining can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where the gemstones were highly prized by the Pharaohs. The Egyptians believed that emeralds symbolized fertility and rebirth and were often buried with the dead as a talisman. The first known emerald mines were located in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, near the Red Sea. The mines were worked by the Egyptians for over 2000 years and produced some of the finest emeralds of the ancient world.

The Romans were also fascinated by emeralds and imported large quantities of the gemstone from Egypt. They believed that emeralds had healing powers and were used as a remedy for eye problems. The Romans also imported emeralds from mines in India, where they were known as "marakata."

During the Middle Ages, emeralds were highly valued by European royalty and were used to adorn crowns, scepters, and other regal objects. The Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to discover emeralds in South America in the 16th century. The most famous of these mines is the Muzo mine in Colombia, which is still in operation today.

The history of emerald mining in Colombia is a colorful one, filled with stories of Spanish conquest, indigenous resistance, and smugglers. The Muzo mine was discovered by Spanish explorers in the 16th century and quickly became a major source of emeralds for the Spanish crown. The mine was worked by African slaves, who were brought to South America by the Spanish.

The indigenous people of Colombia, however, fiercely resisted Spanish domination and often sabotaged the mine in acts of rebellion. The Muzo mine was eventually abandoned by the Spanish, but it was rediscovered in the 19th century by a French mining engineer named Emmanuel Mutis. Mutis established modern mining techniques at the Muzo mine and made it one of the most productive emerald mines in the world.

The history of emerald mining in other parts of South America is also rich and varied. In Brazil, emeralds were first discovered in the 19th century, and the most significant deposit is located in the state of Minas Gerais. In the 1960s, Brazil became the world's leading producer of emeralds, surpassing even Colombia. Today, Brazil is still a major source of emeralds, but production has declined due to environmental concerns and the depletion of the mines.

In Zambia, emerald mining began in the 1920s, but it wasn't until the 1980s that the country emerged as a significant producer of the gemstone. The Kagem mine in Zambia is one of the largest emerald mines in the world and is responsible for producing some of the most exquisite emeralds ever discovered.

The history of emerald mining in Africa is also tied to the colonial era, with many of the mines being established by European powers. In Zimbabwe, emerald mining began in the 1950s, and the most significant deposit is located in the Sandawana mine. The mine is known for producing small but exceptionally high-quality emeralds.

In Madagascar, emerald mining began in the 1960s, and the most significant deposit is located in the Ambodimanga mine. The mine produces some of the most stunning emeralds in the world, known for their deep green color and clarity.

Australia’s Emeralds

The history of emerald mining in Australia is disjointed and has ultimately been unrewarding compared to other regions. Emeralds were first discovered in Australia in the late 19th century, in the New England region of New South Wales. The discovery of emeralds in Australia was accidental, as miners were searching for other gemstones and minerals.

The first and probably most significant Australian emerald deposit was found in 1890 at Emmaville, near Glen Innes in New South Wales. Over 50,000 carats were extracted over a 20 year period, but discoveries in the mine eventually dwindled and commercially it became unviable.

In 1919, another emerald deposit was discovered at Poona in Western Australia. This discovery led to an increase in mining activity in the region and put Australia on the map as a country of interest however this area is extremely remote and the climate hot and dry which made it very difficult.

After World War II, emerald mining in Australia experienced a small boom as the demand for precious gemstones increased. The Australian government promoted mining activities to boost the economy and meet the demand for gemstones in the jewelry industry.

Despite the promising start, the Australian emerald mining industry faced numerous challenges, including fluctuating demand and competition from other countries. As a result, the industry experienced periods of decline, with all mines closing down temporarily and eventually permanently.

Over the years many have tried their luck at the numerous emerald mining areas across Australia but ultimately none of the mines have proved commercially viable over the long term and today they all remain closed. Its now tourists who visit the areas in the hope to spot a bit of green lying on the ground. We’re lucky enough to have some fantastic contacts around Australia who track down old collections of Australian Emeralds, pieces that were mined many years ago by hard men in the scorching outback. These are some of the rarest of all Australian gemstones and we know our customers will treasure them as we do.

In conclusion, the history of emerald mining is a tale of discovery, adventure, and cultural significance. From the ancient Egyptians and Romans to the Spanish conquistadors and modern-day miners, the allure of emeralds has transcended time and borders. Each region that has contributed to the global emerald market has a unique story to tell, and the history of emerald mining in Australia is no exception. While it may not have the same long-established legacy as some other countries, Australia's emerald mining industry has carved out its place in the fascinating narrative of these enchanting green gems. As technology, environmental awareness, and market demands continue to shape the industry, it will be exciting to see how Australia's emerald mining story unfolds in the years to come.


What is the meaning of emeralds?

Emeralds have been historically associated with attributes such as fertility, wisdom, and love. They are often seen as symbols of hope and renewal.

Are emeralds rarer than diamonds?

Yes, high-quality emeralds are rarer than diamonds, making them highly valuable and sought after by collectors and gem enthusiasts. Australian emeralds are some of the rarest of them all with emeralds from Western Australia often a prefered deep green.

How should I clean my emerald jewelry?

To clean emerald jewelry, use a soft brush or cloth with mild soapy water. Avoid using ultrasonic cleaners or steamers, as they may damage the gemstone.

Can emeralds change color or be damaged over time?

Emeralds can be sensitive to heat and extreme care must be taken by jewellers when working on an emerald ring, however heat isnt really a concern when the piece is being worn or stored. Damage however is more common than for diamonds, rubies and sapphires due to Emeralds brittle nature and lower hardness. 7.5-8 Mho’s scale.

Are synthetic emeralds as valuable as natural ones?

Natural emeralds are generally more valuable than synthetic ones due to their rarity and unique characteristics. However, synthetic emeralds are generally more robust than natural emeralds as they often have fewer inclusions. Modern lab-grown emeralds can be very beautiful and may be a good substitute for everyday wear.