Discovered in the steamy jungles of Colombia, the mesmerising, inimitable glow of the Muzo emerald has made them sought after and fought over for centuries.
‘Muzo’ is a word that is inextricably linked to the world’s finest emeralds, and has been for centuries. Located high up in the Andes, 60 miles north-west of Bogota, Muzo was home to a tribe of warriors who became known as the ‘emerald people’ thanks to their ability to extract the vibrant green stones that populated their land. The Inca empire set the lucid green gems into jewellery of gold. In 1886, treasure seeker Barth Blake wrote about his discovery of lost Inca gold, which included "golden vases full of emeralds”.
After the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the conquistadors took over the Muzo mine and so began a long and bloody period of fighting over the gems, sought after as they were by Indian and, later, European sovereignty alike.
Although the disputes raged throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, it was during this period that the most spectacular Muzo emeralds were discovered. Mining by hand meant that the fragile emerald crystals were less likely to be damaged and the chemical composition of veins close to the surface produced stones of an intense, blueish green, with a noticeable streak of fluorescence that distinguishes them from the yellow-tinged stones mined today.
This legendary gemstone was created millions of years ago when volcanic forces brought together the elements beryllium and chromium with vanadium from ancient seabeds. The captivating glow which is noticeable in the rough state is further enhanced at the hands of skilful gemstone cutters, who facet each discovery to reveal its inner radiance and life.
Many of these ‘old mine’ emeralds were treated with oil to fill internal fractures and enhance their colour - common practice ever since emerald mining began. Pragnell selects only those stones that have received minor or no oil enhancement, using traditional methods rather than modern resin. Untreated Colombian emeralds are exceptionally rare and command extraordinary prices to match.
Muzo has produced some of the world’s most famous emeralds, including The Duke of Devonshire Emerald, which is uncut and a staggering 1,383.93 carats. It was given to the Sixth Duke of Devonshire by Emperor Pedro I of Brazil in 1831.
The Muzo mine still operates today under stringent criteria of sustainability and responsibility. But the veins that produced those electrifying green stones have long since been exhausted. Their incomparable glow makes them desired by collectors all over the world - no wonder, then, that ‘Muzo’ remains synonymous with emeralds today.
From Market Street to Mayfair you can be sure of warm welcome at any of our showrooms across Britain.