Emeralds By Fred Ward


Emeralds By Fred Ward
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Emeralds are the premier gems in the beryl family. For more than 4,000 years, emeralds have been among the most valuable of all jewels. In one of the rare cases where lore and fact coincide, emerald history really does begin in Egypt, where there actually was a "Cleopatra's Mine." Mining in the desert south of Cairo near the Aswan Dam began before 2000 B.C. and continued until about 1200 A.D. Although emeralds were extracted for 2000 years before Cleopatra was born, her use and love of gems led to her name being attached to the mine, an association that remains. Egypt supplied the known world with emeralds throughout the Biblical period and through the Middle Ages. But most of the stones, as you see in numerous examples in Fred Ward's book on emeralds, would barely be classified as gems today. The world had to wait until Spain conquered the New World and found Indians wearing great emeralds to see how fine the green gemstones could be.

Fabulous emerald crystals came from what is now Colombia. It took Spain five decades to overpower the Muzo Indians who occupied the mining area. Monarchs and the gem-loving royalty in India, Turkey, and Persia sought the New World treasures once the gems arrived in Europe. The new emerald owners produced spectacular artifacts between 1600 and 1900, such as the "Atocha Cross" (right). Fabricated in Colombia and lost underwater in the Florida Keys for more than two centuries, the Spanish Colonial specimen recently sold for $750,000.

Today Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia mine most commercial emeralds. Several other countries, such as Pakistan and Zimbabwe, produce smaller amounts. Although Brazil mines more emeralds annually than any other country, Colombia dominates the trade by setting the standards for size and color. It is Colombian emeralds against which all others are judged. Rarer and sometimes more expensive than a similar-sized diamond, Colombian emeralds have a unique look, a green lightly touched with blue. Muzo, the original mine, remains the most important emerald mine in the world.

This contemporary ring is an example of the quality Colombian emeralds Mr. Ward obtains for clients. Notice the bezel-set emerald. Emeralds are often accused of being "soft," which is not true. Because of the molecular makeup and the typical presence of multiple inclusions, some emeralds can be brittle. For rings meant to be worn daily, we usually recommend bezel setting (surrounding the gem with metal instead of setting it up on prongs). This precaution protects the stone from anything except a direct top blow.

Pages: 64 Pages Emeralds are the premier gems in the beryl family

This product was added to our catalog on Monday 24 June, 2013.
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