Colombia’s Government Takes a More Active Roll in the Emerald Trade

12.68ct Colombian EmeraldWe’ve recently learned that the Government of Colombia is working with the Colombian Emerald Association to set up a new gemological laboratory near the emerald trading district in Bogota. The laboratory has purchased the very latest in advanced digital gemological equipment to accurately identify gemstones of all types and the treatments used on them. Teams of gemologists and chemists will work together here in a manner that ensures the highest accuracy and confidence in the certifications issued by the lab. With the backing of the Colombian government, this new laboratory should protect and further solidify the sound and growing confidence that the current Colombian emerald market enjoys after a period of difficulty.

Carlos Arboleda, president of the Emerald Association who represents miners, exporters, traders and jewelers says, “Nothing illegal”; “We want to make sure that people know that nothing illegal is happening.” The Federation and the Colombian government are also designing joint advertising campaigns aimed to triple sales in five years, which last year totaled $140 million, says Arboleda.

The news of government backed gem lab and a collaborative advertising push is a welcome development in the Colombian emerald trade from Embassy Emeralds’ perspective. While reputable, independent gemologists have always had an important role and have served the Colombian gemstone market well, there has always been the need for an authoritative lab that can operate outside of potential influence from the emerald traders themselves and give greater assurances to emerald buyers. While we don’t feel there is a problem with the way Colombian emeralds are brought to market, the emerald trade like many other aspects of Colombia suffers from an image problem that is largely due to Colombia’s other more well known issues.

Of Note: The independent GIA gemologist we often work with in Bogota has been contracted to be the new lab’s director and will define and implement the procedures for identifying emerald treatments. He’s a respected gemologist for many important international emerald buyers that come to Bogota and his expertise will serve the laboratory well. Our main supplier has also contributed to the new lab by lending emeralds to be used as test subjects and in the calibration of their equipment.

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A Little More About Trapiche Emeralds

16.19ct Trapiche Emerald Set Many people ask us about trapiche emeralds and are curious about how they got their name. It’s not an English word and so the curiosity is understandable. Here we take a look at what the word means and how to pronounce it. It’s a very brief look 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 emerald.

The word is Spanish and its use as a name for these rare emeralds comes from the unique spoked wheel appearance that is similar to a wheel used in the sugarcane milling process. Sugarcane is an important crop in Colombia and other parts of Latin America and so it’s plausible that an association was readily made by someone familiar with the trapiche wheel and the name quickly stuck.

Spanish speakers will have no problem pronouncing ‘Trapiche’ because it sounds just as it looks, but for those of us who are not familiar with Spanish pronunciation, it would sound like: trah-pee-chay. When used in English, ‘Trapiche’ is pronounced trah-peesh. Both are correct and you might find people that use both versions when speaking in English.

Embassy Emeralds has access to several trapiche emeralds in various sizes and qualities beyond what you see on our website. If you’re interested in acquiring one, please feel free to contact us today and we can start searching or send you pictures of others we have available to us.

Uncut Trapiche Emerald Trapiche Emerald Rough Non-Emerald Trapiche

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A Quick Look at How to Examine Gemstones

Emerald viewed over skinIt might seem like a no-brainer to most people of how one should examine a gemstone given a loupe and a stone, but few people outside of the trade actually know how to do it effectively. If you fit that description, then this blog is for you. It’s not an exhaustive look at gemstone evaluation and you’re not going to be pro for having read this, but it should help a great deal if you’re looking for where to start.

Before you begin, you need to be sure you have a few things present:

  • A 10x triplet loupe – Standard for grading gemstones as required by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. A triplet loupe prevents distortion at the edges of the lens.
  • Tweezers – This will keep your fingers from oiling up the stones or your skin color from influencing the color you see. However, many a stone has ‘popped’ free from nervous tweezer grips to be lost or damaged as a result. The best advice is….If you’re not good with tweezers, feel free to use whatever method you’re comfortable with, but know that tweezers are ideal.
  • Good lighting – There is some debate as to whether fluorescent or incandescent light should be used to view stones, so why choose. If available, view the stones using both types but be sure the light comes from above and/or behind you.
  • A clean, lint-free cloth – Before the loupe goes to your eye, you should clean the stone to remove any dirt, fingerprints, or lint that may get in the way of making an accurate evaluation.
  • NOTE: Preferably, you’ll be viewing the stone unmounted. This gives you the best opportunity to view the stone as it really is on its own. Gem settings can greatly influence a stone’s appearance, generally improving the apparent color saturation and sometimes hiding flaws.

    With a clean stone and everything in place, you can start your examination. If you’ve chosen to hold the stone with your fingers, be sure to hold it in a manner in which you’re only touching the girdle. With the loupe in one hand brought close to the eye (about 1 inch away), bring the other hand with the gemstone into view by bringing the meaty part of your two hands together. This helps steady the gem hand and tends to be very close to the proper distance to focus properly on the stone with the loupe. Slight adjustments with the gem hand will be necessary as you’ll quickly figure out. You’ll want to rotate the stone and view it from several angles. Focus on the surface to detect any cracks or other exterior damage first and then focus deeper to view inclusions and other features of the interior. With practice you’ll be able to quickly examine stones noting the depth of inclusions and features not plainly visible with casual naked eye observations. This is a particularly good practice with emeralds, because of their included nature.

    Besides obvious cracks, on the exterior you’ll want to look for chips, scratches, as well as the quality and alignment of the cut. On the interior, take a look at internal fissures if present, inclusions, and be on the lookout for possible foreign substances that could indicate an attempt was made at dying or fracture filling the stone. If you have very little experience in examining gems, take some time to do some homework beforehand. You’ll want to read about the characteristics and concerns that pertain to the stone and the defects you might encounter during your examination.

    If you’re looking at the stone to later have it set, a nice trick you’ll want to try is to place the stone in the groove between your fingers with your hand faced down and your fingers together (as shown above). Your skin will provide a backing to the stone that simulates the color deepening effect that many jewelry settings have on gemstones. It really helps to give you a rough idea of how the stone might look once set.

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    Working with Customers on Custom Jewelry

    Working on custom jewelry with online customers is a rewarding experience. It presents us with an opportunity to get to know our customers and work with them online in a way that many online businesses can’t or won’t. Our customers find it educational and in the end, very worthwhile. For us, it’s something we find engaging and sometimes challenging, but extremely satisfying when the finished jewel turns out to be so much more than the customer ever imagined. Since we started maintaining a presence in Bogota, Colombia, we’ve been able to work with several of our customers to turn their custom jewelry ideas into reality.

    Five Emerald Ring in Platinum, Size 14! Alexandrite Ring in 18kt Yellow Gold 5.52 ct Emerald Ring in 22kt Yellow Gold with Hand Carved Pre-Colombian Symbols

    Most of our custom jewelry requests come from customers that even don’t know we take requests. They often find out while making special requests for stones that may not be shown on the site. We explain that with a presence in Colombia, we are ideally suited to handle custom jewelry requests, as we have immediate access to not only thousands of emeralds and uncut emerald rough, but also gem cutters and expert jewelers with a lifetime of experience working with emeralds. These resources make it much easier for us to locate or cut the stones needed, and have them made into custom handcrafted jewelry pieces in much less time than it takes most jewelers elsewhere to simply acquire the stones. It’s a big advantage, but one that we think isn’t taken advantage of as much as we’d expect.

    Three Stone Diamond Engagement Ring, 0.40 cts Low-Profile Marquesa Style Oval Cut Emerald and Diamond Earrings Pear Cut Emerald with 3 Diamond Accents for My Mother

    When a customer decides they may be interested in making a piece of custom jewelry and contacts us to discuss the project, we’ll often call to learn more about what ideas the customer has and how they’d like for it to look. Many times we receive pictures or links to pictures showing similar designs. We also often learn of the significance of the piece and perhaps personal reasons why the piece is being made. We take it all to heart and we continue a dialogue to resolve any design issues, make decisions on the materials to be used, and to work on the fine details. When all is set, the work can begin. The whole process, from first contact to completion of the piece, can take just a few days or up to 3 weeks. That’s not bad, considering it’s a custom design, handcrafted to your specifications, and made with highest quality materials.

    Concept Rendering of 4 Emerald, 3 Diamond Wedding Band One of a Kind Trapiche Emerald Set in 18kt White Gold Oval Cut Emerald and 6 Diamond Accent Ring in 18kt White Gold

    To those who read this blog and are considering making custom emerald or diamond jewelry or any jewelry for that matter, we offer you the following advice: 1) Study the matter carefully – read about gold and the gems you want to include 2) Ask questions about the things you are concerned about or don’t understand – It never hurts to ask and especially with us if we have a chance to educate more people about emeralds. 3) Consider quality – When customers ask us to copy designs they find on other websites, sometimes we can do it for less, sometimes we can’t. If we can’t, it comes down to a question of quality and we tell the customer that we can’t because we use higher quality stones and metals… They really matter.

    All of the above were produced by Embassy Emeralds and the craftsmen we work with. Place your mouse over each picture to preview the link and to view the photo labels describing each jewel.. To create your custom jewelry masterpiece, family heirloom, or a special one-of-a-kind gift, contact us and we’ll talk about it. 

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    My Favorite Gemstones

    I thought it would be fun to share what my favorite gemstones are and why. I can imagine that everyone who shares an appreciation for gems has one or two that they find more intriguing than others. For me the list goes like this:

    1) Emeralds – What? You expected me to say something else? But seriously, emeralds have it all. The 4 C’s…. Curses, Cleopatra, Conquistadors, and Colombia. How Cool is that? Due to being one of the first gemstones to be discovered; emeralds have a long history, rich in ancient beliefs, danger, intrigue, mystique, and symbolism. I could probably go into 50 more blogs on those topics alone. These ‘side stories’, if you will, are often what fuels our fascination with gems and with emeralds in particular. But that’s just half of it. The stone itself is a wonder to behold. I’m not talking about the low-grade commercial emerald you find at cheap retailers and department stores, but beautiful, natural Colombian emerald. Their color and beauty is unrivaled and unfortunately, very under-appreciated because of the plentitude of lower quality material that dominates the market and creates a situation where public opinion is based on a sample that is really not representative of what quality emeralds are actually like.

    In Colombia, they have a name for an effect often seen in the very finest emeralds…’gota de aceite’, which translates to ‘drop of oil’. These gorgeous emeralds are absolutely stunning in how they seem to capture a shimmering, almost liquid essence like a drop of pure oil glistening in the most beautiful and vivid emerald green color you’ve ever seen.

    2) Corundum – I admit it. My eyes wander sometimes….I can’t deny that I like sapphires and rubies too. Of course, sapphires are known best as a blue stone which has always been one of my favorite colors, but sapphires come in nearly every color of the rainbow. Together with emeralds, blue sapphires, and red rubies make up the three primary colors of light, which makes it understandable why they are often referred to as the ‘Big Three’.

    3) Paraiba Tourmaline – You may be surprised by this choice, but at the moment I’m rather intrigued by this stone. Paraiba Tourmalines come in some very interesting colors and true Paraibas only come from one place on earth… Paraiba, Brazil . Tourmalines in general interest me, but Paraiba tourmalines are certainly the most notable. Tourmaline doesn’t have the long history of the ‘Big Three’ or diamonds, but that’s just the way things go. Who knows…Had they been discovered a few thousand years ago like emeralds, they might have made it the ‘Big Four’.

    Honorable Mention:

    1) Diamonds – Over hyped, but we’re still impressed IF they’re of good quality. Many people view diamonds as pretty much all the same, but this is not the case at all. Even for small diamonds, it pays to pay attention to their classifications as I’ve seen some very disgusting stones under the loupe from department store-bought jewelry. You may not think it matters if you can’t see the defects without a loupe, but they really do have a significant effect on the appearance of the stone.

    2) Blue Topaz – I just like the color; I can’t see them being a stone I’d ever wear.

    3) Opal – I still view opal as more of an interesting and pretty rock than a gemstone, but some specimens are very impressive and can be made into some very remarkable jewelry.

    4) Alexandrite – The color change is a pretty neat trick. You really have to see it in a good quality specimen to be blown away. Good quality Alexandrite doesn’t seem to be in large supply, so its doubtful this stone will ever achieve huge commercial success.

    5) Blue Euclase – Very beautiful if cut right, but that’s the trick. Not many are cut as gems because of the difficulty in working with its cleavage planes.

    Embassy Emeralds is a leading online dealer of fine Colombian emeralds, and emerald jewelry. Embassy Emeralds accepts special requests for natural Colombian emerald, blue euclase, loose diamonds, and custom handcrafted emerald and diamond jewelry.

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    Etymology of the Word: Emerald

    Emeralds are thought to be the oldest known gemstone to be mined, having been discovered thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt and also in Indian territory in what is now known as the Swat Valley in modern day Pakistan. The ancient Sanskrit word Marakata is recognized as the oldest known word to refer to emeralds. As emeralds made their way around the known world via the Silk Route, so did the name for them…Changing along the way to fit the languages of those ancient lands.
    In time, the Greek smaragdos and Latin smaragdus emerged and formed the basis for the word in many of our modern languages. In German and Dutch the word smaragd is used. As you can see it’s hardly changed at all. In Italian they say smeraldo which is very obviously a step in between the ancient Latin and our modern words. In other parts of Europe, the word became the Middle English and Old French esmeraude which is still in use in modern day French. The English version became emerald and the Spanish derived esmeralda.

    Whatever your language, it’s interesting to see the origin, evolution, and history behind the words we use. Emeralds certainly have a rich history to them, which contributes to the mystique and sense of awe that surrounds them.

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    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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