This spring, Gemfields is celebrating the emerald – May’s birthstone and the symbol of rebirth and love. The colour green has always symbolised faith and fertility and the human eye is more sensitive to green than any other colour so deep glowing green emeralds have been mined and treasured in that spirit for thousands of years.
The bewitching Cleopatra, for instance, valued her emeralds above all her other gems. The Romans dedicated the stone to Venus, goddess of love. The Indian Mogul emperors, including the builder of the Taj Mahal Shah Jahan, inscribed them with sacred text and wore them as talismans. Emeralds adorned the breastplate of Moses representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel, while the early Christians treasured them as a symbol of resurrection.
Whilst emeralds are more fragile than other precious gemstones thanks to their many natural inclusions, we suspect the legend that an emerald given by a lover would change colour if one was unfaithful is unlikely to be true…. however, we don’t advise testing that theory! What we do know is how rare emeralds have always been. They are one of the original ‘trilogy’ of precious stones – along with ruby and sapphire – and the second most valuable gemstone on Earth.
Gemfields, the world’s largest ethical gemstone mining company, operates the Kagem Mine in Zambia’s copper belt – one of the largest emerald mines in the world. Kagem has proved astonishingly abundant in high quality gemstones. In October, Gemfields announced the discovery of Inkalamu, the Lion Emerald – at 5,655 carats with remarkable clarity and a perfectly balanced golden green hue, one of the recent wonders of the gemstone world.
Naming gemstones is an infrequent tradition – there are fewer than 15 emeralds famous enough to earn proper names, and the majority of those are less than 1,000 carats. Gemfields chose the name Inkalamu, the Lion Emerald in tribute to the beautiful Zambian carnivore. To honour the big cat, Gemfields donated 10% of the auction proceeds from this gemstone to two carnivore projects – one in Zambia and one in Mozambique.
Zambian emeralds were forged over 100 million years ago by an extremely unlikely combination of rare minerals and surging magma from deep in the Earth’s crust. Responsible emerald mining need not be so rare – Gemfields builds schools, provides mobile health clinics in Zambia and Mozambique and develops agricultural projects to ensure sustainable livelihoods for local families.
Today emeralds value and popularity are only rising. The stones feature at the heart of recent collections by jewellery designers and luxury brands from Chopard, through AYA and Backes & Strauss to Kimberley McDonald.
In the past, people bought emeralds to foretell the future, cure demonic possession, ease childbirth, prevent epilepsy and stop bleeding. Contemporary emerald buyers – like Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Zoe Saldana, and Olivia Wilde – have a slightly different agenda. Today’s consumers care more about a gem’s history than ever before, insisting on responsible behaviour from the sourcing of raw materials, to the principals and values of the mines and companies supplying the product.
So whether you’re warding off evil sorcerers or celebrating the rites of spring with an engagement ring, responsibly sourced gemstones ensure you spread the love and light that emeralds have given humanity for over 5,000 years.