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Beginner’s Guide to Buying an Emerald Gemstone

What to Know Before Buying E1681 | medium | play |right | “Emerald ID: E1681 – Weight: 0.96 Carats – Origin: Zambia”

  • First: Emeralds always look better in person. Any professional photographer will tell you that green colors do not show up well in the camera at-all.
  • Second: All gems are evaluated based on the 4Cs of color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. There are modifications of the 4Cs depending on which gem is being evaluated.
  • Lastly: 99% of emeralds are treated for clarity (one of the 4Cs). Emeralds are bought and sold on the premise they have been treated in some form.

Comparing Emeralds

The 4Cs are not a fixed set of standards, but various ranges. There are three separate ranges for color alone with hue, tone, and saturation. Clarity, cut, and carat weight all have their own ranges, and getting the best possible result from each is very low odds. It is possible, but very rare to find emeralds (or any other gem for that matter) that are perfect at any weight. These types of emeralds are also so expensive that only a select few people can afford them. As a result, it is imperative to understand the 4Cs of emeralds to figure out what you would like and what you can afford.

Sample Emerald Selection

Emerald ID: E307
Weight: 0.55 Carats
Origin: Zambia
Price: $550

Emerald ID: E1370
Weight: 0.91 Carats
Origin: Zambia
Price: $546

Emerald ID: E330
Weight: 0.38 Carats
Origin: Zambia
Price: $534

Notice that while all the emeralds above have similar prices and cuts, their color, clarity, and carat weight all vary. This is how having the varying factors of the 4Cs can change overall price dramatically in equal sizes.


It cannot be emphasized how important color is in emeralds. This one factor drives half of the entire gem industry.

What we understand as color is broken down into three components of:

  • Hue
  • Tone
  • Saturation

Hue is what most people understand as color. Emeralds do not have a wide range of colors. The definition of emerald requires a green color. Not yellow, orange, or blue, but green. Modified greens are acceptable too, like bluish green and slightly yellowish green. Slightly being the key word since too much yellow and the emerald is no longer considered an emerald, but green beryl instead.

Emerald Hues

Bluish Green


Emerald ID: E1326
Weight: 1.30 Carats
Origin: Zambia



Emerald ID: E1656
Weight: 2.73 Carats
Origin: Zambia

Yellowish Green


Emerald ID: E1667
Weight: 1.05 Carats
Origin: Zambia

Like how the emerald hues are limited, the tone is too. An emerald must have a medium light tone to qualify as an emerald and not green beryl. Dark emeralds do not have this problem, though if they are so dark they are black and are no longer emeralds. Also worth noting is that very light and very dark tones mess with our perception of color. Even though all the colors below are the same color with full saturation, they appear to be different colors.

Emerald Tones

Saturation is essentially color purity. Green can become grayish or brownish, though this is not usually a concern for most dealers since desaturated gems are not usually stocked. They don’t sell in comparison to their vivid counterparts.

Emerald Saturation


Greenish Gray

Grayish Green


For the best possible emerald color, a bluish green is the most desirable color. Ideally a medium tone is desired in order for the color to be shown as clearly as possible. Lastly, the saturation needs to be a vivid green instead of a desaturated gray. The vast majority of dealers do not bother stocking gems with a heavily desaturated color.

Emerald Clarity

Emeralds are near-always included, so finding one with high clarity runs for a premium roughly three times the amount of a comparable looking fracture-filled emerald. This can increase in larger emeralds, since larger sizes are exponentially scarce.

Furthermore, emeralds can have a lot of stuff in them, with the French referring to it as a “. They can have other crystalline minerals inside, as well as liquid, solid, and gas inclusions. It is very common to see many of these inclusions combined in different ways.

Distinct three-phase inclusion with a gas, liquid, and crystal as a solid

Needle, fractures, and growth tubes, a jardin

Crystal, most likely chromite

Emerald Cuts

Cuts partially determine the clarity of a gem, but only through the decisions of the gem cutter. Additionally, the cutter works with what mother nature created with the gem. If the emerald formed with an extreme amount of inclusions, there is only so much the cutter can do to work with this.

History – The emerald cut was developed to be used on emeralds specifically. The cut was gentler on these frequently brittle gems, and gave them a durable shape less likely to chip. Currently, there are no such limitations on emeralds since our cutting methods and techniques have developed since the creation of this technique over 300 years ago.

Emerald Cut


Emerald ID: E1651
Weight: 2.00
Origin: Zambia



Emerald ID: E1646
Weight: 1.13 Carats
Origin: Colombia



Emerald ID: E1656
Weight: 2.73 Carats
Origin: Zambia

Oval Cut


Emerald ID: E1689
Weight: 1.16 Carats
Origin: Zambia



Emerald ID: E1532
Weight: 1.64 Carats
Origin: Zambia



Emerald ID: E1544
Weight: 1.89 Carats
Origin: Zambia

Round Cut


Emerald ID: E1587
Weight: 1.16 Carats
Origin: Zambia



Emerald ID: E1663
Weight: 1.67 Carats
Origin: Zambia



Emerald ID: E1119
Weight: 1.37 Carats
Origin: Zambia

Also necessary to mention about colored gem cuts is that they are almost never perfectly symmetrical. Diamonds are cut well because their sparkle benefits from this. Colored gems do not benefit from this as much, so the cut is adjusted to maximize the carat weight.

Carat Weight

Unlike the previous factors, carat weight is only a measurement of weight.

Incorporating weight into price is much trickier. Weight gauges the rarity, rather than the quality, of the gem. The reason carat weight is so closely related to the price tag is because this is how dealers understand how rare or valuable this gem is.

Rarity and Price

The price of emeralds does not increase at a fixed rate, like $1,000 for one carat, $2,000 for two carat, $3,000 for 3 carats, etc. The price increase is more like $1,000 for one carat, $2,000 for two carats, $4,000 for three carats. It doubles with every carat increase, though this is only an example of pricing. Actual pricing depends on the calculation of the 4Cs in total.

Emeralds for the Natural Emerald Company inventory:


Emerald ID: E1681
Weight: 0.96 Carats
Origin: Zambia
Price: $2,880.00


Emerald ID: E1257
Weight: 1.90 Carats
Origin: Zambia
Price: $9,044.00

As seen above, E1257 is more than double the price of E1681. This is due to the sheer rarity of the larger carat sizes. There are sharp increases with each carat, though after a certain point of quality these gems go to auction.

Final Choice of EmeraldsEJ57 | medium | right | “Emerald Jewelry ID: EJ57 – Emerald Weight: 1.62 Carats – Origin: Zambia”

There are many industry standards combined into what is considered the “ideal” emerald, most citing ideal emeralds coming from Colombia but Zambia is also capable of producing world-quality emeralds. The most important thing is what you are happy with. Color preference is a highly personal topic, and not everyone has the same taste in emeralds. The types of inclusions some individuals find acceptable varies from person to person. Furthermore, it is possible to match the color to another piece of emerald or green-colored jewelry. Remember, emerald is a range of colors, not just one!

Quality of the Setting

Picking out the gem is a process, but choosing the appropriate setting is important too. Some settings work better with some shapes than others, and design becomes a much bigger factor. There are a few things to keep in mind about the setting too.

Rule of thumb with jewelry is that placing the gem in the setting, along with the side stones and labor is to never exceed the cost of the main gem. Why pay $5,000 for a ring with a $500 gem? If you can afford a $5,000 setting, you can probably afford a much more expensive gem.

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