Zambia's Deep Green
(click to enlarge)
Zambian emeralds, though not as prevalent in the market as those from Colombia or Brazil, are easy to love and Zambian emeralds can compete with the best, and prices are attractive to buyers of fine gems.
orth seeking out for their deep tones, clarity and generally lower prices.
A majority of jewelers and consumers remain partial to the well-known range of leafy, slightly bluish greens from Colombia.
But some enthusiasts voice appreciation for Zambian emeralds' mysterious, deeper greens. "The core of the Zambian emerald crystal is green through and through," says Kevin Kazdin of Bliss & Kazdin, New York City, a dealer specializing in Zambian goods. "Colombian emeralds, conversely, have a clear core and the color is concentrated in the outer edges of the crystal."
Zambian emeralds also appeal to retailers who prefer the purity of the crystal and look for gems with fewer stress fissures or fractures radiating through the stones.
"The cut emeralds are not as brittle as other emeralds, and they are less porous," says Kazdin says. "This makes Zambian emeralds less likely than others to be treated with unknown fillers. We've always promoted Zambian emeralds because of the treatment issue – we feel more confident about what we get from Zambia." While Zambian gems generally don't have fracture filling, Kazdin reports seeing one stone so treated.
Another attraction is price – Zambian emeralds are less expensive in the high-end ranges. Debate rages as to whether the origin of a gemstone confirms its pedigree, but this much is clear: prices are three to five times higher for Colombian emeralds than for Zambian, a factor attributable to worldwide demand.
In extra fine qualities, Colombian emeralds with no signs of treatment can fetch breathtaking highs of $20,000 per carat wholesale in sizes over 5 carats.
All characteristics being equal, a similar Zambian stone is in the $5,000-$8,000-per-carat range. Prices for emeralds have taken a hit recently, says Richard Drucker, editor and publisher of The Guide [Gemworld International Inc., Northbrook, IL; (888) GEM-GUIDE, fax (847) 564-0557]. "Emerald pricing and treatment is a veritable mine field," he says. "Once again we have decreased prices."
A source in Zambia says the domestic emerald industry is healthy, with some big operators such as the Kamakanga Mine and Kagem. A majority of emeralds still exit the country illegally, though the Ministry of Mines reported production figures of 588kg of emerald in 1996, up 350% from 1995.
"Zambia is free and open so the mining business is becoming fully legal and above-board," explains one Zambian emerald dealer. "More and more miners are registering, which can only be good for the gemstone industry." Zambia is trying to develop a world-class cutting industry to obtain added value from emerald exports. But Israeli cutters continue to get the finer, larger goods from Zambia, while Indian cutters gets a cross-section of Zambian material.
(Courtesy of Robert Weldon, G.G.)
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