A History Lesson to Correct a Common Spelling Error

Attention to detail is a good trait to have. In the jewelry business it’s a must. At Embassy Emeralds, we pride ourselves on it and it shows in the quality of our loose emeralds and the designer jewelry we make for our customers. It’s just how we do things. It’s programmed in and we’re forever going to be looking for those ‘little things’ that just aren’t right and need to be fixed. And so for that reason it’s time for us to put out another call to action to correct one of the most common and annoying ‘little things’ we see… The spelling of ‘Colombian Emeralds’. Or is it ‘Columbian Emeralds’? (No, it’s not.) Here’s a brief history lesson to help you remember the difference.

Hail, ColumbiaColumbia with a U is a common name for places in the United States. In fact, the United States would have been named Columbia if many of our founding fathers had gotten their way. They favored the name ‘Columbia’ over ‘the United States’, which was seen as too long and awkward. Also many wanted the name Columbia to honor the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the new world. The debate over this name went on until around the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when proponents of the name Columbia finally gave up their fight, but it wasn’t forgotten however. George Washington later named the place from which the United States would be governed: the ‘Territory of Columbia’, which of course, is now the District of Columbia. Columbia was also the name of a female personification of the United States that was used much like the male equivalent: Uncle Sam. And you may not know that the unofficial U.S. National Anthem was actually ‘Hail, Columbia’ until the Star Spangled Banner was officially adopted in 1931.

Colombia with two O’s is correct if you wish to describe a country in South America that produces the world’s finest emeralds. It is also derived from Christopher Columbus’ name which was Cristóbal Colón or Cristobulo Colombo in Spanish and Cristoforo Colombo in his native Italy. It is from his name that the English term Pre-Columbian or sometimes Pre-Colombian (precolombino in Spanish) is derived, which refers to the period before Europeans landed in the New World.

ColombiaAn interesting note that is completely unrelated to the name debate that went on in the United States, were the name changes going on 50-80 years later in the territories of Great Colombia. Great Colombia included present day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and parts of Brazil, Guyana, and Costa Rica but was dissolved in 1830-1831. It was then that Colombia (and small parts of territories that once belonged to Great Colombia) became known as the Republic of New Granada until the name was changed again in 1863 to… The United States of Colombia (no kidding) and again in 1886 to the current, Republic of Colombia.

It’s plain to see that while there is a common origin to both versions of the word Colombia/Columbia, they are distinct and are not interchangeable. Just as it would be incorrect to speak of Colombian emeralds as Columbian emeralds. Columbian emeralds don’t exist and besides, Colombia deserves some credit for one of its most famous legal exports.

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