Friday, December 21, 2007

Emeralds; The God's Shed Green Tears

The Emerald of Colombia Part I

By Richard W. Wise, G.G.


Green Gold:

There they sat, scattered like match sticks across the white desk blotter, glowing a rich cool green in the late afternoon sun. My breath catches in my throat. I do my best to maintain my cool, to politely keep my eyes on those of my host, a suave youngish Colombian businessman in a white dress shirt, the jacket of an expensive pin-striped suit thrown over the back of his desk chair. "Youngish" is, of course, a relative term when you're pushing 63. The dealer smiles and motions me to a seat and there they were right in front of me, a king’s ransom of emerald crystals. I try not to dwell on the four tough looking guys with the semi-automatic rifle in the room we passed though on the way into the office. They too wore nice suits.

This was a sight I never expected to see. I have traveled all over the world and seen a number of exceptional gemstones but never have I seen a rough parcel of such high quality of anything, anywhere, never mind gem emerald. I pick up one crystal, it is a bit distorted in form but it is clean and the size of my thumb. I hold it up to the light. Completely clean a medium dark slightly bluish green. I do notice an interesting pattern of zoning, several thin dark lines, almost black, that run perpendicular to the length of the crystal.

“That one cost me $35,000”, the dealer volunteers.

“How much does it weigh”, I ask.

He places the crystal on a scale. I do a quick calculation. The price comes to $1, 411.00 per carat.

The dealer, perhaps regretting his candor with the inquisitive American author, hastens to add that the average yield in cut stones is only about 25%.

Point taken!, that means the average cost of the parcel after cutting works out to $5,644.00 per carat. This is beginning to sound like a multi-million dollar crap shoot because, as we are about to witness, this parcel contains a range of qualities.

Columbia’s Top Cutter:

Senor Adolpho Argotty is considered Columbia’s top emerald cutter. Now 55 he began cutting when he was 15 years old. His father wanted to be a cutter but was not very good at it. Argotty laughs, “so he became a teacher.”

We have been invited to watch Senor Argotty cut two rough crystals from the big La Pita parcel; one weighs 7.17 carats the other 8.53 carats. Argotty works by hand, literally! After examining the two crystals for a few minutes he takes one and casually puts it to the wheel. I see no scales, no calipers, no jam-peg, no measuring devices of any kind, not even a ruler.

The first step is called pre-forming; it is the most important step and requires the highest degree of skill. The wheel is charged with diamond grit mixed with water. The pre-former decides what to keep and what to cut out and that determines the shape and weight of the finished gem. The facets will be added later.

Next: Argotty puts it to the wheel! Stay tuned.

Learn the truth about how Emeralds and other fine gems are graded and priced!

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llmusic said...

Mr. Wise,
Thanks for this article on Columbian Emeralds. When I saw it in my inbox, it was like an early Christmas present as this is my favorite gem. I just set one of my loose stones in a semi-mount this week. I must say, it's by far the prettiest piece I own. There's just something about the internal glow of Columbian Emeralds! Can't wait for the next installation. Happy holidays, Lynn Music

Anonymous said...

You email shows several formatting problems.

Richard W. Wise said...


Pleased that you enjoyed the post, I certainly enjoyed the trip. I apologize for any grammatical lapses.

I certainly agree with what you say about Colombian emerald. Spent a week in the market and bought several magnificent stones. The color and crystal of the gems is without parallel.

Two days after I returned, pneumonia hit and I ended up flat on my back. These days, its not the so much the diseases that prevail in some third world countries but rather the unhealthy air in the plane that you need most to fear.

This story will require several posts. I am also preparing an article for Colored Stone Magazine which will be more in depth with additional photographs.

Happy Holidays,