Although Egypt was originally the main source of emeralds, Spanish explorers discovered emerald mines in South America in the sixteenth century. After successfully conquering the Inca people, who used the emeralds as offerings to their Gods, the Spanish conquistadors eventually introduced these rich green crystals to Europe.
Colombia has historically been the source for the most abundant volume of emeralds, and also the highest quality, although the mines have often been left dormant for decades at a time since the 1500s.
The sedimentary rock of the eastern range of the Andes is where Colombian emeralds are found. As the Andes Mountains were formed, the rocks were forced together causing layers of sediment to break and create fault lines. It is in these fault lines that hot, mineral-rich fluids began to flow, eventually to rise up through the rock layers to form emerald. This stressful environment along with the emerald’s chemical structure are what cause the clarity characteristics within the stone.
The finest coloured stones from Colombia are bluish-green with medium to dark tones and strong to vivid saturation, and are referred to as ‘Colombian emeralds’. However, the hue of the emeralds can vary depending on where they are mined.
The traditional Colombian mine of Muzo produces bright, pure green emeralds, while the Chivor mine produces a more bluish-green emerald; the Coscuez mine produces a brighter green stone. These sources are used as a comparison for when new mines are discovered.