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Emeralds 101

September 14, 2020 4 min read

A Marisol ring with a vintage emerald

Rarity and Origin 

The emerald, a variety of beryl, is considered one of the world's most prized gems. While pure beryl is colorless, certain trace elements will determine the color of the stone. 

What makes emeralds so rare and precious is their signature green hue. Chromium and vanadium are the trace elements responsible for this. These elements are found deep within the earth’s surface and in very small quantities. Emeralds typically form in hydrothermal systems, where mineral rich fluid seeps into fractures of the surrounding host rocks. Under the right temperature and pressure conditions, emeralds form out of the solution. This makes the emerald a unique masterpiece of mother nature and, believe it or not, more rare than diamonds. Emeralds are found in many different countries including Colombia, Russia, Zambia, and Brazil. 

Four emerald rings

 

Hardness vs Durability 

Before you consider purchasing one of these gorgeous green stones, we need to define hardness vs durability. Hardness is a gems resistance to scratching, while durability is a gems resistance to breaking or overall toughness. Emeralds are a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. This is a universal scale that helps gemologists describe minerals and their hardness relative to each one another. Diamonds are a 10 on the scale, meaning they are the most scratch resistant and can pretty much scratch anything, including other diamonds. With emeralds being a 7.5 to 8, they are quite hard yet still prone to scratches and abrasions. Emeralds have low durability making them increasingly vulnerable to cracking, chipping, or breaking. 

Due to their complex origin, emeralds are almost always heavily fractured and or included. These fractures are planes of weakness within the stone and they are prone to breaking along those fractures with impact, pressure, and or temperature changes. One of the reasons an emerald ring must be worn with exceptional care!

An Emerald Marisol halo engagement ring on a crystal

 

What is a ‘fracture filled’ emerald? 

Almost all emeralds you see in jewelry stores are what's called “fracture filled” unless otherwise disclosed. As previously mentioned, emeralds are usually heavily included and have numerous fractures caused by the extreme conditions that are needed for their formation. The term ‘fracture filled’ describes a treatment used to enhance an emerald's overall appearance by using oil to fill in the fractures, making the stone look more clear and enhancing its color. When fractures are not filled they appear white and distracting, which is why most vendors enhance their emeralds with oil treatments when needed. 

At Valerie Madison we work closely with trusted vendors who are upfront and honest about their treatment practices. We sell both oiled (fracture filled) and natural or “no oil” emeralds and disclose all treatments in our product descriptions. While both types of emeralds are beautiful, an emerald that is natural or “not oiled” is considered more rare by industry standards. That being said, most natural or untreated emeralds are hard to come by and usually more expensive depending on the emerald’s quality factors including saturation of color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. 

Before and after photos of an emerald with an oil application

 

Care

Emeralds should be reserved for those who understand the delicateness and great care required for this stone. The types of high value and quality emeralds selected at Valerie Madison for our rings makes them pieces that should not be worn everyday, to prevent risk of damage. If you are thinking about purchasing an emerald, you need to be aware of the care they require to ensure the longevity of your piece. 

If you are someone who does not wear jewelry regularly, or is hard on your hands, we do not recommend an emerald for your engagement ring; or any everyday ring for that matter. We offer a variety of more durable gems to choose from, including green sapphires and diamonds. You can browse our online selection of stoneshere

If you still have your heart set on an emerald, we have some guidelines to best take care of your piece so you can enjoy it for years to come. Many of these tips work for all fine jewelry, but it is extremely important to implement this high level of care for all emerald jewelry. 

  • Your emeralds should be the last thing you put on in the morning and the first thing you take off when you come home. 
  • Avoid lotions, perfumes, cosmetics, cleaning detergents, hand sanitizer, or hairspray interacting with your emeralds.  
  • We do not recommend wearing your emeralds when engaging in activities such as but not limited to: exercising, swimming, showering, gardening, sleeping, or any heavy lifting. 
  • Avoid exposing emeralds to extreme temperatures, as this can cause cracks on the surface of your stone.
  • Emeralds cannot withstand chemical or ultrasonic cleaning, it is best to clean your stone regularly with a soft cloth. Every so often it is good to clean your emerald witha gentle detergent like dawn dish soap mixed with warm water. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub around and beneath the stone to restore its sparkle. 
  • Continuous exposure to heat, such as sunlight, can damage your emerald and sometimes even discolor your stone.** 
  • Emeralds should always be stored with care. This includes keeping them away from other jewelry that could potentially scratch them or cause accidental damage. Store your emerald jewelry wrapped in a soft cloth, inside an individual cloth bag, or ring box. 

**specifically applies to fracture filled emeralds 

An emerald Lily three stone wedding ring

 

VM Emeralds and Custom Engagement Rings 

At Valerie Madison, we only sell emeralds that we have personally sourced and keep in stock. At this time we are unable to source emeralds for a custom ring unless otherwise noted. While most settings can accommodate emeralds, we prefer to set them in prong style settings. Some of our bezel styles, such as the Selena and Aura, are possible but it depends on the stone’s characteristics and inclusions. We are unable to flush set emeralds due to their low durability. VM emeralds can be set in 14k and 18k yellow gold and platinum, but not white or rose gold at this time. 

Are you interested in creating an emerald engagement ring? Please email custom@valeriemadison.com and we will be happy to answer your questions.