The Emerald of Colombia Part I
By Richard W. Wise, G.G.
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!
Follow me on gem buying adventures in the pearl farms of Tahiti. Visit the gem fields of Australia and Brazil. 120 carefully selected photographs showing examples of the highest quality gems to educate the eye, including the Rockefeller Sapphire and many more of the world's most famous gems. Consider my book: Secrets Of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur's Guide To Precious Gemstones.
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whether you like to know what the best colour is in Tanzanite, or how to grade a Diamond, you will find it in this book. No other book I read before dealt with this topic is such detail as Richard Wise's masterpiece."
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