Until the sixteenth century, when Spanish explorers discovered the abundant emerald mines in South America, Egypt had been the main source of emeralds. The Inca people from South America suffered torture and death to try to protect their green crystals, which they used as offerings to their Gods. However, the Spanish conquistadors prevailed and introduced the rich emerald source to Europe.
Historically, Colombia is the source of the highest quality and highest volumes of emeralds. However, the mines have been worked on and off since the 1500s, sometimes lying dormant for decades at a time.
The term ‘Colombian emerald’, is often used to describe the finest colour of stones mined in Colombia. These stones are 'bluish-green' with medium to medium-dark tones and strong to vivid saturation.
Colombian emeralds form in hydrothermal deposits in the sedimentary rock environment that the eastern range of the Andes provides. When the Andes Mountains formed, the rocks were forced together and as the layers of sediment buckled, folded and eventually broke they created fault lines. The fault lines formed trails for hot, mineral-rich fluids to flow through, rising up through the many rock layers to form emerald. Due to the stressful environment in which emeralds are formed and their chemical structure, it is common to notice clarity characteristics within the stone.
Emeralds that come from the traditional Colombian mines of Muzo, Chivor and Coscuez can all vary slightly in hue. However, they can all exhibit the rich, vivid, deeply saturated colour that typifies the finest Colombian emeralds.
Muzo is most commonly known for its bright, pure green emeralds. Chivor emeralds are a more bluish-green and Coscuez produces a brighter green stone. These traditional sources are used as a comparison when new mines are uncovered.