The Muzo Valley in Colombia is famous for producing the world’s most spectacular – and ethically sourced – emeralds, writes Amelia Hungerford.
There is nothing to compare with the vivid leaf-green hues of Muzo Colombian emeralds. The emerald, the best-known gem from the beryllium family stars alongside diamonds, rubies and sapphires as one of the four most covetable stones in our collective imagination. They evoke natural beauty, growth, prosperity and peace, but also hint at tantalising deadly sins, such as envy and greed.
The emerald cut, popular with diamonds, was originally created to showcase the stunning green shades within. It minimises the pressure these rather soft stones would be subjected to during the cutting stage. Dome-shaped and sugarloaf-cut cabochons – popular in the 16th century – are also returning to favour, giving the jewels a candy-like appeal.
Very few emeralds are flawless, having been created in the volcanic meeting of beryllium, chromium and vanadium, and their inclusions are rather romantically known as jardins, or gardens. These gardens give the gem its unique, mesmerising character, reminiscent of natural beauty in all its imperfections or tiny galaxies, crystallised in stone 65 million years ago.
From the heart of Colombia
Today, emeralds are most prominent in Colombia and Zambia. The jewels have been mined in Colombia and exported to Europe since the 16th century. Colombia still produces between 70 to 90 per cent of the world’s emeralds. The best of the best come from Muzo, Boyacá, a town north of the capital Bogotá, hidden among lush green mountains that reflect the colour of the area’s most valuable commodity. Here, modern, ethical mining methods combine with millennia of legends, all veiled in the mists of the Andes.
Muzo Colombian emeralds are famous for their intense, grass-green fire, lit from within by an unexpected element: red fluorescence. This subtle addition distinguishes Colombian stones from their blue-green African counterparts. While the ‘four Cs’ lay out the criteria for selecting a diamond, choosing a Muzo emerald is far more subjective. The Muzo ABC (Allure, Beauty, Charm) relies on personal connection. Muzo International issues a certificate of origin for each gem for tracing. It also employs a team of skilled lapidaries to cut the stones and distribute the polished product, controlling the process from the top down.
Polished to perfection
With emeralds 20 times rarer than diamonds, it’s no surprise that they are entrusted only to the most masterful jewellers. Bulgari produced one of the world’s most memorable emerald suites for Elizabeth Taylor, while jewels from Colombia are still in high demand at Harry Winston, Graff, Boodles, David Morris and Chopard.
At Sydney boutique jeweller J Farren-Price, the gems are at their most dazzling in the Colombian Emerald and Diamond Suite, a shimmering necklace and earrings set. The former features 214 diamonds and a seven-carat Muzo emerald, while the drop earrings stun with two emeralds and diamonds totalling 7.25 carats, all set in gleaming white gold. A statement piece indeed.
This article originally appeared in volume 38 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue today.
Lead image: Harry Winston ‘Emerald Cushion Necklace Cascading Drop’ in yellow gold and platinum, POA