Emeralds are, of course May’s birthstone and whilst not the only green gemstone in the world, they are certainly one of the most popular. Like many gemstones, there is much history and folklore associated with emeralds, so we thought we’d share some of the lesser known emerald facts with you this month:

1. In addition to being the birthstone for May, emerald is also the traditional gemstone gift for the 20th, 35th and 55th wedding anniversaries.

2. South Africa is home to some of the world’s oldest emeralds, dated at 2.97 billion years old!

3. Emeralds are part of the Beryl family of minerals, a group that includes aquamarine (March’s birthstone) and morganite.

Aquamarine beryl

Did you know that emerald is part of the same mineral family as aquamarine?

4. Colombia is the world’s most well-known source of emeralds and approximately 50% of the world’s emeralds are currently mined from multiple mines in Colombia.

5. A 1ct emerald will have larger dimensions than a 1ct diamond, as the emerald density is less than that of a diamond.

6. The Kagem Emerald Mine in Zambia is owned by Gemfields and is the world’s single largest producer  of emeralds, accounting for 25% of global emerald production.

7. Kagem is the world’s largest emerald mine, covering an area of approximately 41 km2.

Kagem emerald mine

The main pit at the Kagem Emerald Mine in Zambia. Photo by Gemfields.

8. The rich green colour in emeralds is a result of trace imperfections of chrome and vanadium.

9. Only rich green colours of beryl can be classified as “emeralds”. Gems that are paler and less intense in colour are known as “Green beryl” and are significantly less expensive than emeralds.

10. Emeralds have a hardness rating of 8 on Moh’s hardness scale, but are considered relatively fragile due to distinct crystal cleavage planes with the gem.

11. The natural crystal growth system of emeralds is hexagonal, which means that rough emeralds are often discovered in symmetrical 6-sided “columns”, very similar in shape to quartz crystals.

Rough emerald

Natural emerald crystals showing a hexagonal shape.

12. In October 2018, a massive 5,655ct emerald was discovered at the Kagem mine. Weighing 1.1kg, Gemfields named the crystal “Inkalamu”, meaning “Lion”. It was sold on auction in November 2018 to Rajkumar and Rishabh Tongya of Dia-Color, an Indian company that specializes in high-end gemstone jewellery.

Inkalamu emerald

The “Inkalamu” emerald recovered from Kagem Emerald Mine. Photo by Gemfields

13. Jaipur, in India, is one of the largest emerald cutting centres in the world today.

Emerald cutting and polishing

Cutting and polishing of emeralds in Jaipur, India.

14. Natural emeralds are typically included with natural imperfections. The fewer imperfections an emerald has, the more expensive it will be.

15. The highest price per carat paid for an emerald on auction was $305,000 per carat. In 2017, Harry Winston purchased the 18.04ct Rockefeller emerald for $5.5 million at a Christie’s auction.

Rockefeller emerald

The Rockefeller emerald, purchased by Harry Winston. Photo by Christie’s

16. One of the largest rough emeralds on display is the Duke of Devonshire emerald that resides in London, in the Natural History Museum. Weighing 1383.95cts, it was discovered in the early 19thCentury in Muzo, Colombia.


Emerald engagement rings

Emerald rings with sustainably sourced emeralds from Zambia’s Kagem Emerald Mine, available at Katannuta Diamonds.

We hope you found some of those little nuggets of information interesting! Being a proudly South African company, we are passionate about gemstones sourced from our continent, Africa. As such, many of our emeralds are sourced ethically from the world-class Kagem emerald mine in Zambia.

Whether you are looking for loose emeralds with which we can design a dream item of jewellery for you, or emerald jewellery that’s ready to wear, just drop us a line and let us help you find the perfect emerald match.