Gemstones & Pearls:News
Zambia's Deep Green
Zambian emeralds can compete with the best, and prices are attractive
Zambian emeralds, though not as prevalent in the market as those from
Colombia or Brazil, are easy to love and worth 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.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
Left: Emeralds from Zambia cost less than their Colombian and Brazilian
Above: Zambian emeralds have deeper tones than those from Colombia.
Photos by Robert Weldon
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.