Colombia is most the most famous source for emeralds, but emeralds have been mined in many locations around the world. In fact, recent decades have seen an increase in production from new deposits in South America and Africa.
Pear-Shaped Colombian Emerald
The most famous deposit in Colombia is the Muzo Mine, northwest of Bogota. This deposit was first mined by Native Americans but was eventually abandoned and then rediscovered in the 17th century. The Muzo Mine yields fine quality emerald of a deep green color. Another important deposit is the Chivor Mine, northeast of Bogota. More recently, new deposits have been discovered which look promising for the future. Still, only a third of the emeralds mined in Colombia are worth cutting.
Brazil has emerald deposits in Bahia, Goias and Minas Gerais. The Brazilian stones are lighter in color than the Colombian material; they tend to be a yellow-green. The Brazilian emerald is also often relatively free of inclusions. New deposits have been found since 1980, and Brazil is now one of the most important suppliers of emerald in the world.
In the last several decades, increasing quantities of emerald have been found in a series of small deposits in East Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. The East African emeralds are quite strong in color, sometimes with the desirable blue-green hue. The most famous of these emeralds are the ones from Sandawana in the south of Zimbabwe. The Sandawana crystals tend to be small but are of very high quality.
Emeralds are also mined in South Africa, in the Northern Trasvaal. Modern mechanized mining is carried out at the Cobra and Somerset mines, but only about 5% of the product is of good quality. Most stones are light in color or heavily included and only suitable for cabochons.
Other noteworthy emerald deposits are in India and Pakistan as well as in the Ural Mountains of Russia. Less important deposits have been found in Afghanistan, Australia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and the United States (North Carolina). In Europe, emeralds have been found in Austria and Norway.
The most famous emerald mines of antiquity were in Egypt. Known as the Cleopatra Mines or Mons Smaragdus (Emerald Mountains), they were worked as early as 2000 B.C. The mines were also worked during later centuries but they were abandoned after the Spaniards discovered emeralds in Colombia in 1545.
- First Published: June-03-2008
- Last Updated: October-25-2019
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