How to Buy Emeralds – A Luxury Guide for Selecting the Highest Quality
“Emeralds have the verdant energy of life itself,” says Giuseppe Picchiotti, founder and designer of the PICCHIOTTI fine jewelry brand. “Their vibrant green hue holds within it the color of spring, of nature, of growth. The highest quality, deepest green Emeralds are always a surprise and a delight, a true treasure from the depths of Mother Nature.”
Emerald is the birthstone for May. The Emerald’s remarkable hue and history are a fascinating source of inspiration and delight for its many fans. The name comes from the ancient Greek word for green “smaragdus” and the gem is associated with foresight, eloquence, and wit. Pliny the Elder of ancient Rome described the Emerald in his Natural History, published in the first century AD: “…nothing greens greener.” According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), Pliny “described the use of Emerald by early lapidaries, who ‘have no better method of restoring their eyes than by looking at the Emerald, its soft, green color comforting and removing their weariness and lassitude.’ Even today, the color green is known to relieve stress and eye strain.”
At PICCHIOTTI, Emeralds are believed to be the most beautiful of all green things on the planet. Giuseppe Picchiotti has been buying the very best quality Emeralds for over fifty-five years. His expertise can help us identify how to buy Emeralds, and of course, how to select the very finest quality.
Origin – Where Do the Best Emeralds Come From?
Emeralds have been used in fine jewelry and adornment since the ancient Egyptians. GIA tells us that the first known emerald mines date back to 330BC in Egypt. Cleopatra herself had a passion for emeralds and often used the beautiful green gem as her royal adornment.
In the modern world, the largest mines of emeralds are found in Colombia and Brazil in South America and in Zambia in Africa. While emeralds are mined around the world (Afghanistan, Australia, Russia, Pakistan, United States), the finest quality emeralds are generally believed to be from Colombia. In recent years, however, PICCHIOTTI has found many exceptional quality emeralds coming from Zambia.
Take for example, ring RD79, the Bombé Ring, with a rare and precious oval Vivid Green ZAMBIA emerald set in the middle of a complex arrangement of pear-shape diamonds. This emerald weighs 19.34 carats and is one of the finest emeralds in the PICCHIOTTI collection.
Color – How to Pick the Very Best Shade of Green
Unlike Sapphires that come in a wide variety of hues, and similar to rubies that come in one prominent color, Emeralds are all green. In fact, the green color is one of the primary identifying characteristics of an Emerald. The Emerald is a natural variety of the mineral beryl whose green hue is caused by trace amounts of chromium or vanadium.
The color of an Emerald can be gauged by looking at hue, tone, and saturation. In terms of hue, the best Emeralds, quite simply, are the ones that are most green. The acceptable color range is light to dark green, and the stone can have a slight bluish or bluish-green hue. Tone refers to a gemstone’s relative lightness or darkness. For Emeralds, lighter tones will generally have more sparkle, making them more relevant for certain designs. Saturation refers to the intensity of hue, so deeper green hues make for better quality Emeralds. The Picchiotti family looks for the very truest greens, meaning deep green hues with lots of saturation and vibrant tones. They also always reference the stone’s grading report. Some gemological lab reports list very specific color grades for Emeralds (for example “Vivid Green”).
For smaller stones that do not come with a lab report (these typically come in lots or groups), the Picchiotti family relies on Giuseppe’s great expertise and his very well-trained eye. Giuseppe, with his vast experience in working with color gemstones for so many years, has been teaching his sons Filippo and Umberto all the tricks and tips to judge and recognize Emeralds that are worthy of being showcased in PICCHIOTTI Collections.
Another important consideration is color matching. Because Emeralds are all distinct, there are no two exactly alike. Matching Emeralds in a layout for a necklace or to make a pair of earrings can be challenging and time-consuming. Often truly exceptional stones will spark the idea for a specific design that Giuseppe has to then “collect” the stones for over time. Perhaps he finds two or three superlative Emeralds that would make a remarkable necklace like the Fit for a Queen Masterpiece necklace (N754). He then has to continue to collect Emeralds of similar hue, tone, saturation, as well as quality to be able to complete the necklace.
The Fit for a Queen necklace boasts a rare layout of 18 octagonal Emeralds (total 45.91 carats). It is a contemporary necklace designed to highlight the particular cut and shape of this splendid Emerald collection, all surrounded by a radiant geometric outline of PICCHIOTTI’s signature baguette diamonds.
Cut – How to Pick the Best Shape for the Stone
A good cut of a gemstone must always be well proportioned and performed by a well-trained master gem-cutter. For Emeralds, in particular, the cut can help to maximize their desirable green color. Because beryl naturally forms in hexagonal crystals, the cut that works best for bringing out the true beauty of an Emerald is an elongated, rectangular shape with step-cut facets. Both the shape and the facets help to brighten the stone with sparkle and minimize the visibility of inclusions or fissures.
Giuseppe Picchiotti, however, loves to design with a variety of shapes, including oval, pear, and octagonal cuts, as well as cabochon. “The rounder cuts are rarer for Emeralds but when cut precisely, the oval, octagonal, and cabochon Emeralds can capture a depth of color that it impossible with the more traditional emerald-cuts.”
One of Giuseppe’s favorite Emerald pieces is the Dome Ring (RE53) featuring a beautiful COLOMBIA octagonal Emerald weighing 4.97 carats, surrounded by a complex setting that creates a quintessential PICCHIOTTI ring in the linear shape and design.
Clarity – Almost All Emeralds Are Clarity Enhanced with an Oil Treatment
For Emeralds, one of the primary concerns is the oil clarity enhancement. It is common knowledge that a vast majority of Emeralds on the marketplace undergo an oil clarity enhancement. This is done to reduce the natural fractions that can be found within the stone itself. A small quantity of transparent oil is injected into the stone to reduce the visibility of the cracks and enhance the stone’s clarity. This is a very ancient procedure that is quite commonly accepted.
According to the American Gem Society, “Like other beryls, Emeralds often have inclusions that are visible without a microscope. Most gemologists readily accept this about these gemstones and don’t detract too much from the overall value of the stone when inclusions are present. It’s all about the vibrant color and saturation of the gemstone!”
In general, PICCHIOTTI looks for stones with “a minor clarity enhancement (F1),” meaning that the enhancement only slightly affects the surface of the stone. The type of enhancement performed on the stone is always clearly stated in the lab report.
Of course, the finest quality is the one with very few inclusions or fractures, so that it needs virtually no enhancement. However, this type of quality only accounts for about 1% of the global emerald production. Emeralds of such exceptional quality are often bought as investment gems, as they tend to retain or increase their value over the long haul.
PICCHIOTTI is also well known for reproducing the complex beauty found in Nature and bringing it to life. These two Emerald brooches are definitive evidence. The Peacock (5484) is an elegant brooch featuring a pear-shape vivid green ZAMBIA Emerald (5.77 carats) spreading its tail with a unique array of smaller pear-shape emeralds. The Extravagant Exotic Bird (5487) brooch allows the feathered friend to take a break from flight while gently leaning on a black-rhodium plated gold branch. Its graceful body is made of diamond feathers with a stunning oval cabochon Emerald originating from ZAMBIA.
Care – How to Care for your Emerald
Because most Emeralds are highly included, their toughness is generally classified as poor. Beryl has a hardness of 7.5–8 on the Mohs scale, compared with the score of 10 for a diamond. This makes proper care of Emeralds all the more important.
Given that they are not as hard as a diamond, be sure to store your emeralds in a soft pouch in a safe place like a jewelry box. Also avoid placing anything heavy on top of your Emeralds.
Exposure to chemicals has potential to create problems with the stone’s vibrancy, so make sure your high-traffic jewelry pieces, like rings and bracelets, are the last thing you put on (after lotions, perfumes, hair spray) and the first thing you take off (to avoid banging into desks/furniture, dishes, etc.). You can clean your Emerald with warm soapy water or a soapy cloth but avoid harsh detergents that might dilute or remove oils from the stone. And never soak your Emerald jewelry in solvents containing alcohol, acetone, etc.
When buying, always shop from a reputable jeweler that you trust and consider insuring your Emeralds for their full retail value, in case you ever need to replace them. Most jewelry retailers offer gem grading reports with high-quality gemstones. Ask to see the gem report and have the salesperson explain the origin, cut, clarity, and carat weights of the gems being purchased. Also look for trusted, heritage brands like PICCHIOTTI who stand behind the beautiful gems that they sell.
Most important, remember to let the beauty of Mother’s Nature’s color palette bring joy and delight! Supreme quality Emeralds are one of the Earth’s greatest treasures. Enjoy their lovely green hues.
As Giuseppe always says, “I simply love Emeralds’ strong personality! They always make a bold statement in a jewelry collection, whether you are looking for a collector’s piece or an heirloom to be worn for generations to come.”
Feature image at top – Clockwise from Upper Left – PICCHIOTTI Xpandable cocktail ring with octagonal Emeralds and round Diamonds, PICCHIOTTI Xpandable For the Love of Color bracelet with octagonal Emeralds and emerald-cut Diamonds, PICCHIOTTI Fine Jewelry – Chandelier ring with drop Emeralds and round Diamonds, Model wearing PICCHIOTTI Chandelier Emerald Collection, Elie Saab F/W 2022-23
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