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Colombian Emeralds

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Thousands of open pits and underground operations make up one of the oldest producers of emeralds in the world in and around Sikait, Egypt located in the southwestern portion of the country. On November 22nd, 1816 during an expedition, the French mineralogist Fredric Cailliaud first uncovered the mines at Gebel Zabara, and two years later, Sikait itself was unearthed.

The modern day Wadi Gimal and Wadi Sikait mines are located near the ancient roman mining villages of Nugrus and Sikkait.

Many of the specimens used in the ancient Egyptian, Roman, Babylonian, and Byzantine cultures are from these mines though rarely are crystals found en excess of 5 cm in length. This region became known as 'Mons Smaragdus' or 'Emerald Mountains'. After the conquest by Alexander the Great, it was also referred to as the 'Cleopatra Mines', in reference to the ancient queen of Egypt.

These mines may have been worked as early as 1800 BC, with some reports suggesting dates as far back as 3500 BC. However, they didn't reach their peak until the 330 BC to 30 BC, or what is known as the Ptolemaic period. Until the Spanish invasion of the Americas, Egypt was the only significant producer of emeralds in any significant quantity.


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