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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk

Emeralds from Zambia

When most people think of fine emeralds, they think of Colombia. Brazil is also an important source for emeralds, mainly for mid-grade product. However, Colombia has the greatest mindshare among consumers for higher quality emeralds. In the gemstone trade, however, another source is attracting a great deal of attention, that is Zambia.

Map of Southern Africa
Map of Southern Africa

The Republic of Zambia is located in Southern Africa, in a region rich in gemstones. Many of its neighbors are more famous for gems, especially Mozambique, Tanzania and Namibia. Once known as Northern Rhodesia, Zambia gained its independence from Britain in 1964. Zambia is slightly larger than the state of Texas and has a population of around 12 million people. The economy has traditionally been dependent on copper mining, but the country is trying to diversify by promoting agriculture, tourism, gemstone mining and hydropower. However, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

Zambian Emerald Rough
Zambian Emerald Rough

In 1976, Zambia saw the commencement of extensive emerald mining operations. The Zambian stones were characterized by a richer, more saturated green hue compared to Colombian emeralds. However, the standout feature of Zambian emeralds was their remarkable transparency and clarity. In contrast, Colombian emeralds are often heavily included with numerous internal fractures and fissures, with their primary allure lying in their exceptional color. The Zambian emeralds demonstrated that emeralds could also exhibit superb transparency and brilliance.

Zambian Emerald
Zambian Emerald

The high end market was slow to accept Zambian emeralds, but that began to change when Tiffany & Co. began to promote emeralds from Zambia in 1989. Today Zambian emeralds are well-respected and recognized for their own distinctive characteristics. Zambian emeralds now constitute about 20% of the world's supply. Some of the Zambian emeralds are dark-green, and some have a bluish tone, especially under incandescent light. But many Zambian emeralds rival the Colombian product for color.

Kagem is the largest emerald mine in Zambia and has a long and history of producing high quality emeralds, supplying approximately one third of the world's emeralds annually.

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