E1144 | medium | play | left | “Emerald ID: E1144 – Weight: 0.96 Carats – Origin: Zambia”Within the professional field of gemology, there is no such thing as a pink emerald. This is due to the fact that the color definition of emerald is restricted to colors ranging from green to bluish green.
However, the mineral species of emeralds, beryl, can come in a variety of colors like red, blue, yellow, colorless, and pink. This because pure beryl (Be3Al2Si6O8) is colorless. You only get colors seen in emeralds and aquamarines from trace amounts of other elements like iron, chromium, manganese, and vanadium. The pink variety is specifically called morganite, after the famous American banker and collector extraordinaire, J. P. Morgan. Morgan’s mineral collection was so impressive and extensive that it still makes up a significant portion of the best mineral specimens in the Museum of Natural History in New York today.
E1001 | small | center
Emerald ID: E1001 – Weight: 1.55 Carats – Origin: Zambia
E167 | small | center
Emerald ID: E167 – Weight: 1.01 Carats – Origin: Zambia
E1096 | small | center
Emerald ID: E1096 – Weight: 1.05 Carats – Origin: Zambia
While morganite comes in a dizzying array of pinks, it does not typically have high color saturation and often looks washed out. Even highly saturated larger pieces at auction at Sotheby’s are a pastel pink instead of a more vivid color. Experts will tell you that the best examples of this gem come from Madagascar, though exceptional pieces from other locations like Brazil are possible (if improbable).
Like red beryl, morganite is colored by a rare element called manganese. Only small amounts of manganese are needed to reach a pink color. Precise values are not given because the exact amount of manganese that is present in each crystal varies. The color is not always evenly distributed either, and can show uneven coloring called color-zoning. The more of the coloring trace elements that are present, the more vivid the color will be.
Manganese in morganite is a trace element because it only accounts for a fraction of a percent of the crystal structure. Elements that are not a core component of the crystal are dubbed trace elements in those gems. In the mineral beryl the necessary components are beryllium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen.
Although the specifics of elements differ from gem to gem, this concept also applies to most if not all gems colored by trace elements (including emeralds).
Unlike red beryl that only grows to a fraction of a carat (around 0.2 carats), morganite can reach sizes of 100s of carats. Despite the large carat weight, finding deeply saturated pieces is a problem. An abundance of carat weight does mean that gem cutters are more likely to give the gem an ideal cut.
While not impossible to find, bright vivid colors are not common in morganite. They are typically light, and a little desaturated. High-end pieces of morganite end up in auction houses like Sotheby’s for tens of thousands of dollars.
Mineral specimens that show ideal crystal formation based on their habit, or ideal shape, can be valuable too. If we were talking about the piece of pink beryl from Morgan’s collection, the same piece that became known as the first piece of Morganite, then it would have a price tag to match the provenance.
Despite being the same species, morganite and emeralds actually have different clarity types. This refers to how clear or included a gem normally forms. Type I gems are frequently eye clean, meaning they have no visible inclusions. Type II gems usually have some inclusions visible, which is what type of gem morganite is. Most crystals are Type II gems. Type III gems are expected to show visible inclusions. Emeralds are an example, with less than 1% of all emeralds being eye-clean.
Type I – Eye-Clean
Type II – Somewhat Included
Type III – Near Always Included
Morganite mainly comes from two sources: Brazil and Madagascar. Aside from morganite, Brazil also produces aquamarines, heliodor, and most notably fine-quality emeralds. The country is a huge producer of beryl varieties in general.
There are other sources for morganite, with specimens in the collection of the Museum of Natural history also coming from California, USA. These sources don’t get mentioned because they do not consistently produce gems the way Brazil and Madagascar do.
Morganite can possibly show a cat’s eye, with the phenomena formally called asterism, though this is very rare. The eye will most likely be soft and fuzzy, and the gem color will probably be weak too. Most gem cutters working with morganite are not looking for this feature either, though a professional always takes note of potential features their gems can show.