Magniﬁcent Old Mine Emeralds
When we use the term “Old Mine Emeralds,” we are often referring to gem-quality emeralds mined before the 19th century from Muzo, Cosquez and Chivor in what is now Colombia. After the Spanish Conquistadors confiscated the mines from the local inhabitants at the end of the 16th century, the stones were exported in quantity to Europe, Persia and India. Today, we generally use the term “Old Mine Emeralds” to signify the best-of-the-best in terms of an emerald’s remarkable green color.
By Ioannis Alexandris, CEO Gemolithos
Among the Colombian emeralds sent to India are the ones that make up this beautiful collar belonging to the Maharaja of Kashmir.
The 45-ct Andean Cross emerald belonged originally to Spain's Queen Isabella II, before changing hands several times.
To understand the legend, lore and historical significance of Old Mine Emeralds, we need to take a journey back more than 500 years when some of the most magnificent emeralds began appearing around the world.
Before 1500, the first major source of emeralds was Egypt, followed by Pakistan (Swat Valley) and Austria (Habachtal Valley), although these localities were not producing what we would today consider gem quality emeralds.
Fine stones did, however, begin to come out of Pakistan in the mid-19th century. Emeralds appeared in Russia around 1830, while India’s emerald production came online in the 1940s, although it peaked in the 1950s. About this same time, Zimbabwe also began producing fine green emeralds.
Zambia’s emeralds can be traced back to the 1930s, but production of fine quality stones started only in the 1970s. Athough Brazilian emeralds were discovered earlier than the 1500, fine gems were only produced starting in the 1970s.
Other sources today include Madagascar, Afghanistan and Tanzania, among other localities. And, even though the emeralds from Colombia are considered the cream, stones from other locations are also considered to be fine gems.