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By Roberta Naas | December 8, 2015 | Watches & Jewelry
Emeralds have captured the imagination of fine jewelry lovers from the Queen of Egypt to Queen Bey. Now they’re capturing the market, too, with increased demand and boundary-pushing designs that bring emeralds’ ancient allure to modern collectors.
18k white-gold Cento Diamond Frizzante and emerald necklace and 18k yellow- and white-gold Cento diamond and emerald cocktail ring, Roberto Coin (prices on request). 13.67 carat emerald and 14.80 carat diamond Infinity bracelet, 2.33 carat emerald and 7.77 carat diamond Graff Butterfly watch, and 4.07 carat emerald-cut emerald ring with 1.05 carat heart-shaped diamond shoulders, Graff (prices on request). Platinum emerald and diamond three-stone ring ($130,000) and platinum diamond and emerald single-row ring ($210,000), Tiffany & Co. Cherry Creek Shopping Center, Denver, 303-322-4747. Jacket, Dior ($2,900). Neiman Marcus, Cherry Creek Shopping Center, Denver, 303-329-2600
Legend has it that an emerald placed under the tongue can endow a person with the ability to see the future. Another ancient belief is that an emerald protects its wearer from evil spirits and spells. The gem’s vivid green color has sparked the imagination for centuries, and its allure remains as powerful today.
In the recent must-read New York Times best seller Luckiest Girl Alive, the emerald engagement ring worn by the protagonist—an über-glamorous magazine editor—represents not just a pledge of love, but the perfect life she aspires to. The 2015 Grammy Awards saw no less a luminary than Beyoncé rocking 80 carat emerald and diamond earrings on the red carpet. Queen Bey is just the greatest and latest star to adorn herself with emeralds, a trend that was kicked into overdrive by Angelina Jolie when she wore dramatic emerald drop earrings to the 2009 Academy Awards. Since then, a slew of celebs, including Taylor Swift, Emma Stone, and Miranda Kerr, have embraced the emerald craze.
This renewed obsession with emeralds is increasing demand for the gem and yielding an abundance of new designs in the fine-jewelry market. “Now more than ever before, the world is paying attention to color in jewelry,” says Melvyn Kirtley, chief gemologist at Tiffany & Co. “Color allows more individuality when complementing a wardrobe, and as people become more educated about emeralds and their rarity, they find themselves wanting to own these enchanting stones.”
In response to this heightened interest, top players in the jewelry and gemstone industry, as well as private and government-owned emerald mining companies, gathered in Colombia in October for the first International Emerald Symposium. Experts from the major emerald-producing countries— Colombia, Brazil, Zambia, Russia, Afghanistan, Madagascar, and Pakistan—came together to discuss the many facets of mining and marketing, with a focus on how to modernize production, set uniform standards worldwide, and provide consumers with more information.
1. 18k white-gold 31.28 carat emerald and 7.52 carat diamond High Jewelry collection earrings, Chopard.
2. 18k white-gold emerald and diamond Arcata necklace from the Bals de Légende collection, Van Cleef & Arpels.
3. 18k white-gold emerald and diamond Cento Frizzante Diamond necklace, Roberto Coin.
4. Platinum 25.91 carat emerald and 137.09 carat diamond Red Carpet Collection bracelet, Chopard.
5. 18k yellow-gold and platinum emerald and diamond Cluster earrings from The Incredibles Collection, Harry Winston.
6. 18k rose-gold 7.26 carat cushion-cut emerald Extremely Piaget ring, Piaget.
7. 18k white-gold diamond, emerald, and tourmaline Piaget Mediterranean Garden earrings, Piaget.
8. 18k gold and platinum emerald-cut emerald and diamond drop earrings, Tiffany & Co.
9. 18k white-gold diamond and emerald High Jewelry necklace, Bulgari.
10. 18k white-gold emerald, diamond, and turquoise Piaget Asmara ring from the Secrets & Lights collection, Piaget.
11. Platinum emerald and diamond rings, Tiffany & Co.
12. 18k white-gold 7.99 carat emerald and 2.92 carat diamond Red Carpet Collection earrings, Chopard.
13. 146.65 carat carved emerald and 42.94 carat diamond double brooch with transferable mechanism, Graff.
14. Titanium 26.01 carat emerald Red Carpet Collection earrings, Chopard.
15. 146.65 carat carved emerald and 42.94 carat diamond double brooch with transferable mechanism, Graff.
16. Platinum, emerald, blue sapphire, and turquoise Extremely Piaget ring, Piaget.
17. 18k white-gold diamond and emerald High Jewelry necklace, Bulgari.
18. 18k white- and yellow-gold 4.48 carat emerald and white and yellow diamond Gateau d’ Amour ring from the Peau d’Âne collection, Van Cleef & Arpels.
Prices are available upon request.
Emeralds were born in the earth’s crust 500 million years ago, in a process initiated by the tremendous heat and pressure created by the movement of tectonic plates. Most of the world’s emeralds are mined in Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia, with the rough stones in each region having a slightly different coloration, depending on the amount of chromium, vanadium, and iron in the crystal. According to the Gemological Institute of America, experts differ on how green a stone must be to be called an emerald rather than a less-valuable beryl, but the consensus is that an emerald is saturated with color—a deep, verdant green—while a beryl is lighter.
The pricing of emeralds is largely a function of supply and demand—and their supply has always been quite limited, due to the rarity of beryllium, an essential component of emeralds’ molecular structure. In fact, emeralds are rarer than diamonds. “But in the past few years, with the emerald mining in Africa, we’re seeing a little bit stronger production,” says Henri Barguirdjian, president and CEO of Graff Diamonds USA. “That has helped spur the trend.” He notes that the stone’s rarity naturally elevates its status.
While the industry’s fragmented nature makes accurate statistics about colored gems difficult to come by, experts estimate that more than 20 percent of retail jewelry sales today involves colored stones, compared to less than 10 percent five years ago, with the price for emeralds increasing by 10 to 20 percent over the same period.
Due to their rarity and richness of color, emeralds have for centuries been valued as one of the “big three” colored gems, along with rubies and sapphires. “Emeralds have an extraordinary history,” says Barguirdjian. Cleopatra was said to be enamored of them, and the Russian crown jewels included a number of remarkable specimens, in terms of both size and quality. “All of the best jewelry collections, like Elizabeth Taylor’s, have had spectacular emeralds in them,” Barguirdjian adds. “For customers building a jewelry collection today, the emerald is a must.” Many leading jewelry houses with a long history of using emeralds, such as Bulgari, Cartier, Graff Diamonds, Harry Winston, and Van Cleef & Arpels, are answering consumers’ growing demand for green by incorporating these vivid treasures into their collections in exciting new ways.
Graff, for example, has introduced extraordinary pieces featuring carved emeralds. The art of carving an emerald (as opposed to cutting it in facets) is centuries old, with notable examples from antiquity fetching steep prices at auction today. Graff was fortunate enough to acquire some of these one-of-a-kind stones and has set them into captivating new jewelry pieces, including a brooch that can be separated into two smaller brooches or worn as a pendant. “These are exquisite pieces,” says Barguirdjian, noting that they’re “for the woman who is building a top-quality jewelry collection. Those who really understand the beauty of the art will want these special pieces.”
“The beauty of a carved emerald is to enhance the color and hide the jardin,” says Gary Roskin, executive director of the International Colored Gemstone Association, referring to irregularities in color, known as inclusions (or jardin), which are more common in emeralds than in other precious gems due to their composition. “Emerald is the only gemstone where inclusions are described in a way to make them more appealing: ‘le jardin,’ French for ‘the garden.’” Indeed, inclusions can be considered an aspect of an emerald’s allure, as with the exotic trapiche emeralds that Tiffany & Co. recently featured in its Blue Book, which catalogues the brand’s most spectacular jewels each year. Trapiche emeralds have inclusions that extend from the center in six lines, creating a star-like effect. “Each inclusion is different,” says Kirtley. “They are part of the natural beauty of an emerald’s being.”
While many of today’s emeralds continue to appear in classic settings with diamonds, some designers are pushing boundaries, offering modern motifs not typically associated with the emerald, in order to attract edgier customers. Such is the case with Italian designer Roberto Coin, who is releasing dramatic new designs in 2016. “The emerald now can be considered a very fashionable stone, in addition to its historical and natural high value,” says Coin. “Green is the color of the year.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF CRAWFORD; STYLING BY FAYE POWER; MANICURE BY MICHELLE MATTHEWS USING DIOR VERNIS; MODEL: BELLA / PARTS MODELS NYC