Trapiche Emeralds – A Rare Stone Indeed

I was recently surprised to learn how few people have ever heard of trapiche emeralds. I know they’re quite rare, but I’m talking about people that are jewelry enthusiasts, people with some experience working with gems, and even Colombians, which is the only place on earth where they come from. So, it occurred to me…if these people don’t know, maybe I should sit back and reconsider just how rare they are and write a blog about it. Maybe I can teach someone a thing or two.

Trapiche emeralds are a rare type of emerald found infrequently in certain emerald mines in Colombia. The name trapiche (commonly pronounced tra-peesh in English, tra-pee-chay in Spanish) comes from a grinding wheel used to process sugarcane in Colombia. According to the most readily available information, the only known mines are Muzo, Peñas Blancas, and Coscuez which are located within a span of about 30 km (20 miles) along the Rio Carare. Trapiche emeralds are green as all emeralds are, but black carbon rays radiate out in a six pointed radial spoke pattern from a center core and colorless beryl or black carbon often surrounds the green emerald areas. The center core may be in a hexagonal shape and contain emerald (green beryl) or colorless beryl or it may not form at all.

Every aspect of the trapiche emerald varies greatly from specimen to specimen. This includes the core shape, alignment of the spoke pattern, green emerald portion and its surrounding material. Often the overall crystal shape is irregular with only the core and sometimes green emerald portion forming the regular hexagonal shape associated with beryl crystals but most often even this is irregular. The green emerald portion may also form in a six-leafed pinwheel or flower pattern when the carbon or other foreign material forms in larger concentrations between the prisms of the green emerald crystal.

Trapiche emeralds are highly valued for jewelry because of their rarity and unique characteristics. But it would be unheard of to find a trapiche emerald that is faceted. Trapiches are generally cut to shape or sliced and/or cabochoned. Some slices can be very irregularly shaped, but skilled jewelers can create very unique one of a kind pieces.

Consider for a moment what you’ve just read and let’s put together the facts about emeralds and trapiche emeralds to learn just how rare a good gem quality trapiche emerald is. We have to consider all of these facts together as each one adds almost exponentionally to the rarity of a good trapiche.

  • Emeralds are rare stones. Much rarer than diamonds. Gem quality emeralds are even more rare.
  • Small emeralds (and trapiches) of a few millimeters are common, relatively speaking, but rarity increases as size does.
  • Trapiche emeralds only come from three emerald mines found along a 20 mile stretch of land in Colombia and the percentage of trapiche emerald crystals found in these mines compared to typical emerald crystals would be a small fraction of one percent.
  • Many trapiche emeralds are irregularly shaped meaning many are difficult or impossible to work with. Many are oblong in shape and appear stretched.
  • The six rays of the trapiche will often not match in terms of length, straightness, thickness, or appearance.
  • The trapiche core can be well formed in the hexagonal shape or have no core at all, but instead just be the meeting point for the six rays.
  • Emeralds almost always have inclusions and trapiche emeralds are no exception. The presence of inclusions is normal and accepted, but it does increase the likelihood that an unforgivably bad inclusion could disqualify the stone from being considered ‘gem quality’.
  • Color can vary greatly as it does in all emeralds from any source. Poor color or very little color at all is an important consideration.
  • Clarity also can vary as it does in all emeralds, however, clarity is generally a very minor consideration for trapiches and usually only for the green areas of the stone.

Ok, so we’ve established that a trapiche emerald is very rare and then we narrowed down the field considerably by having quality standards. That eliminated the large majority of an already very rare stone. Trapiche emeralds of good gem quality are very rare indeed; perhaps one of the rarest of gems. Maybe it isn’t that surprising that more people haven’t heard of them…there just aren’t that many out there.

Embassy Emeralds carries a large selection of loose emeralds, including trapiche, along with beautiful emerald jewelry settings.

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2 Responses to “Trapiche Emeralds – A Rare Stone Indeed”

  1. […] however. If you’d like to learn even more about trapiche emeralds, I suggest you read our other trapiche blog that explains in detail, more about this unique type of […]

  2. […] however. If you’d like to learn even more about trapiche emeralds, I suggest you read our other trapiche blog that explains in detail, more about this unique type of […]

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