Also known as southern Africa’s green treasure, Zambian emeralds make up 20% of the world’s emerald production. In fact, after Colombia, Zambia is the second most valuable source of emeralds in the world. What’s more, Zambian emeralds are a popular choice for elegant jewelry and stunning pieces, including earrings, brooches, necklaces, and engagement rings. The most beautiful emerald engagement rings are paired with diamonds.
Here’s everything you need to know about Zambian emeralds and what makes them so unique.
What Are Zambian Emeralds?
Emeralds are one of the most precious gemstones on Earth. They fall into the “big four” gemstone group, which also includes diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. While Colombia accounts for nearly 80% of the world’s emerald production, some of the most exceptional emeralds ever found come from Zambia.
Zambian emeralds are highly desirable due to their unique color and other quality-determining properties. They’re competitively priced, and it’s believed their value will continue to grow in the future.
History of Zambian Emeralds
Zambian emeralds are some of the oldest emeralds in the world. Mining for emeralds in Zambia began in the 1920s, but minimal amounts of good-quality gems were actually found around this time. It wasn’t until the 1970s that people became seriously interested.
However, this sparked a lot of controversies, resulting in illegal mining activities and forced labor. These issues are why many Zambian mining locations are restricted today. All emerald mining activity has to be done with cooperation with the Zambian government.
In 1990, Zambia became one of the essential sources of emeralds on Earth, and it yielded many famous emeralds. The world’s largest emerald was mined in Kagem, Zambia, in 2021. It weighs 7,525 carats, and it’s called “Chipembele,” which means “rhino” in Bemba. Another notable Zambian emerald weighs 5,655 carats, and it was mined in 2018. It’s called “Inkalamu,” which translates to “lion.”
Mining Locations of Zambian Emeralds
Most Zambian emerald deposits are located in the Ndola Rural Restricted Area, close to the Kafubu River. According to one GIA article, there are over 400 emerald mines in this part of Zambia today, but only less than 10 of them are still active. Kafubu is also one of the oldest gemstone mining areas in Africa.
The most well-known Zambian deposit is Kagem, which happens to be the largest emerald mine in the world. This deposit produced approximately 3.74 tons of emeralds in 2011. Only 25% of the Kagem mine is owned by the Industrial Development Corporation of Zambia, while the other 75% belongs to Gemfields, a mining company based in the UK.
Zambia’s other valuable mining locations include Grizzly, Kamakanga, and Chantete concessions.
Unique Qualities of Zambian Emeralds
Like other emeralds, Zambian emeralds were made from a rare combination of minerals, including beryllium, chromium, and vanadium. In other words, emeralds were formed due to granite rock and metamorphic rock coming into contact millions of years ago.
As opposed to emeralds from Colombia or Brazil, Zambian emeralds most commonly have a bluish-green color, because of which they’re slightly darker. This color difference is because emeralds from Zambia tend to contain higher iron concentrations. The presence of the blue undertone gives these emeralds more depth.
Another aspect that makes Zambian emeralds stand out from emeralds mined in other locations is that they usually have fewer inclusions visible to the naked eye. However, this doesn’t mean that all Zambian emeralds have inclusion-free clarity. They’re also less porous and brittle than other types of emeralds.
Due to the high iron levels, Zambian emeralds have a much stronger structure. Finally, Zambian emeralds are typically found in much larger quantities, the biggest one weighing 7,525 carats.
Zambian Emerald Price per Carat
Zambian emeralds are highly sought out due to their superior quality and immeasurable beauty. Even though Colombian emeralds are more expensive, Zambian emeralds can also command a high price. What’s more, their value will only increase in the future.
As far as pricing goes, Zambian emeralds weighing 1 to 3 carats of good quality will cost approximately $5,000 per carat. Emeralds from Zambia that are gem-quality and 1 to 3 carats will command a higher price, going up to $15,000 per carat. If you’re looking for a gem-quality Zambian emerald with 4 carats or more, expect it to cost from $20,000 to $30,000 per carat.
The price depends on many factors.
A gem’s value is primarily determined by its “four Cs,” which stands for color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. These are some of the factors you need to look for when shopping for a Zambian emerald, but we’ll get to that later.
Zambian Emeralds vs. Colombian Emeralds
Even though Colombian and Zambian emeralds might have similar appearances at first glance, they’re not the same. To begin with, they have different hues. Zambian emeralds most commonly have a cool bluish-green color. On the other hand, Colombian emeralds are a warmer pure green color.
As mentioned before, Zambian emeralds have a higher iron consistency, which gives the bluish-green hue. But that’s not all. Due to the high levels of iron, emeralds from Zambia are much stronger. They have a 7.5-8 score on the Mohs Scale, while Colombian emeralds score 7-7.5.
As opposed to Colombian emeralds, which have been sought out for hundreds of years, Zambian emeralds have only stepped into the spotlight in the 1970s. That’s because mining for Colombian emeralds began in the 16th century, while Zambian emeralds were not found until much later in the 1920s. Therefore, it’s assumed Colombian emeralds have a much longer and richer history spanning over 500 years.
For this reason, Zambian emeralds are typically more affordable than Colombian emeralds. But the truth is that Zambian emeralds are much older than emeralds found anywhere else in the world. It’s believed they were formed deep within the Earth’s crust more than 500 million years ago.
Zambian Emerald Engagement Rings
Aside from diamond engagement rings, emerald engagement rings have become a trendy choice for future brides. Whether you’d like an emerald as the center stone or a diamond center with an emerald halo, you can’t go wrong with emerald engagement rings.
Here are some Zambian emerald engagement rings you can find at Estate Diamond Jewelry:
The Tennyson ring features a prong-set Zambian emerald that weighs 2.42 carats. The emerald is 18k white gold, and it’s flanked by two baguette-cut diamonds. Small round-cut diamonds are set along the ring’s width, making this emerald engagement ring even more special. The total weight of all the diamonds amounts to 0.70 carats.
If you like halo-style rings, the Brunoy ring is a beautiful choice. The center stone is an impressive 4.87-carat Zambian emerald. It has a deep green saturation, and a diamond halo surrounds it. Additional diamonds are set on the ring’s shoulders. The diamonds have a baguette cut, and they accentuate the intense color of the emerald.
The Escalante ring centers on a GIA-certified, natural Zambian emerald. The stunning emerald is set in 18k white gold, and it’s flanked by two trapezoid-cut diamonds. The emerald has 9.39 carats, while the two diamonds weigh 1.21 carats together.
15 Insider Tips for Buying Zambian Emeralds
Buying a Zambian emerald should be seen as an investment, which is why you need to be well-informed about these beautiful gemstones. These 15 tips should help you find the perfect Zambian emerald for you or your significant other:
1. Color Is the Most Important Factor
As with any other gemstone, look at the color of the emerald first, like a Zambian emerald’s cool green color with a blue undertone. Aside from the emerald’s hue, the saturation and the tone also matter. You’ll want a Zambian emerald with vivid saturation and a tone that’s not too dark.
2. Look for Eye-Clean Emeralds
Zambian emeralds have fewer eye-clean inclusions than other types of emeralds. That’s why you should look for a Zambian emerald that has little to no inclusions. However, emeralds with no visible inclusions, even ones from Zambia, are almost impossible to find.
3. Chose a Form-Fitting Cut
There are many cuts you can choose for your Zambian emerald. The cut is important because it determines how light is reflected on the gem and how color is distributed. Avoid cuts with sharp edges, like square, pear, marquise, and baguette cuts. Emerald cuts are ideal, especially for engagement rings.
4. Is Carat Weight Important to You?
Zambian emeralds that are 3 carats or more have a much higher price than 1-carat Zambian emeralds. This aspect depends on your budget and personal preference. Naturally, the more carats an emerald is, the higher the price.
5. Decide on a Complimenting Color
The great thing about emeralds is that they look beautiful with gold and silver. Since Zambian emeralds have a blue undertone, they look better with silver, white gold, or platinum. But if you don’t want to accentuate the cool color, gold will make it warmer. Zambian emeralds also look gorgeous when they’re paired with diamonds.
6. Treated vs. Non-Treated
It’s tough to find emeralds that haven’t been treated in any way, and the same rule applies to Zambian emeralds. Ninety percent of emeralds on the market have been treated or enhanced in some way, whether to increase saturation or minimize inclusions.
7. See the Zambian Emerald in Person
It’s a well-known fact that emeralds look much better in person than in photos. If you’re serious about buying a Zambian emerald, ask to see it in person before making any decisions.
8. What Kind of Setting Do You Want?
The Zambian emerald’s setting can make the engagement ring even more appealing. You can find a lot of emerald engagement rings with diamond halos or diamond accents. Solitaire emerald engagement rings can also look stunning on your hand. A bezel setting or a v-prong setting will protect your emerald best.
9. Be Wary of Imitations
There’s a difference between synthetic and imitation emeralds. Synthetic emeralds are manufactured, but they have the same physical properties and chemical compositions as natural emeralds. On the other hand, imitations have nothing to do with genuine emeralds.
10. Ask for Gem Certifications
And, the previous tip takes us directly to this tip. To ensure your Zambian emerald is genuine, ask for a gem certification issued by a licensed gemological laboratory. The most reliable gem certifications are distributed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). These certifications reveal various other information, including the gem’s origin, treatment information, exact measurements, and more.
11. Inclusions Are Possible
Even though Zambian emeralds have fewer inclusions than emeralds from other locations, this doesn’t mean that they have a perfect composition. In fact, emeralds with little to no inclusions are extremely rare. If you happen to find one, it has likely been treated.
12. Emerald Symbolism
If you want to buy a Zambian emerald as a gift, do you know what it represents? Emeralds, in general, symbolize love, passion, and truth in relationships. In addition, it’s the birthstone for the month of May and the gem for the 20th and the 35th wedding anniversary.
13. Do Your Own Research
Before buying a Zambian emerald, it’s important to do your own research. Fortunately, all the information you’ll need can be found in this article.
14. Compare the Emerald’s Rarity to the Price
Generally, 1-3-carat Zambian emeralds with standard quality go for $5,000 per carat. If the emerald hasn’t been treated and has few inclusions, it can cost much more. However, be careful not to get ripped off. The emerald’s rarity can usually reveal its true value.
15. Shop With a Trusted Jeweler
Finally, to ensure the best quality, it’s essential to shop with a reliable jeweler, whether it’s online or in person. Look for a trusted jewelry store that’s 100% transparent and offers gem certifications for its products.
Talk to a Zambian Emerald Expert
Shopping for jewelry can get overwhelming, and buying a Zambian emerald is no easier. The best thing you can do is consult with a Zambian emerald expert. Here at Diamond Estate Jewelry, we offer an exquisite collection of rare Zambian emerald jewelry.
If you’d like to know more about Zambian emeralds, please contact us. We’d be happy to help. If you’d like to see a Zambian emerald engagement ring from our collection, you can schedule an appointment to see it in person.