Professional Jeweler Archive: Salt of the Earth

January 2001

Gemstones/Gemology


Salt of the Earth

Inclusions in Colombian emeralds reflect the elements of life


Negative crystal inclusions in gemstones can often contain mysterious minerals and primordial fluids (see “Trapped During Construction,” Professional Jeweler, November 2000, p. 40). Emeralds from Colombia often contain these minuscule spaces filled with liquids, gases and solids.

Gemologists are often thrilled to find these three-phase inclusions, as they are called, because they are particular to emeralds from Colombia and help to identify origin. Emeralds from other locations sometimes contain liquid and gas, but not solids.

The solid is halite (or salt) and forms in cubic shapes. The liquid is mineral-rich water. The gas is most likely oxygen; it appears round because it’s essentially a bubble within a liquid, generally flattened by the microscopic confines in which it exists.

When three-phase inclusions are visible to the unaided eye, you sometimes can see the halite and gas bubble switch places while rotating the emerald. Imagine how exciting this would be to explain to a customer, that this movement is taking place every time she wears the emerald.

Three-phase inclusions also signal one of the world’s best-regarded and best-known sources of emeralds. Think of them as a nature-branded gemstone!

Finally, explain to your customers that emeralds from Colombia are a true reflection of the earth because they contain the elements of life itself: liquid, gas and solid.


– Robert Weldon, G.G.

The jagged edges of a fluid three-phase inclusion (see box) in this emerald from Colombia contain a gas (the rounded bubble with shiny edges), a salt crystal (low-relief square) and mineral-rich water. The inclusion is seen here in reflected and transmitted light at 35X.

Photo by Robert Weldon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications