1. Zambia’s emeralds are highly regarded
Emeralds are part of the beryl family of precious stones. Zambia is now one of the three largest producers of the beautiful deep green gemstone, together with Colombia and Brazil. Although emeralds were discovered in Zambia in the 1920s, commercial mining began only in 1976. Zambian emeralds have a bluish undertone, which derives from the presence of iron in their composition.
Zambia produces 20% of the world’s emeralds
2. Leading diamond investor buys into Zambian emeralds
Lev Leviev, a Soviet-born Israeli, who made his fortune undercutting the mighty South African diamond conglomerate, De Beers, has invested in Zambian emeralds. In 2017, it was reported that he had bought half of Grizzly Mine, one of Zambia’s biggest emerald mines, located in Copperbelt Province; it has since been renamed Gemcanton.
3. The largest emerald mine in the world is in Zambia
The Kagem emerald mine in Copperbelt Province is the world’s single largest producer of emeralds. Owned by Gemfields, and covering 41 square kilometres, it accounts for about 25% of global emerald production.
4. The value of emeralds is lower than diamonds
Emeralds are twenty times rarer than diamonds, but they do not fetch the same prices. Emeralds are graded on four criteria; colour, clarity, cut and carat (i.e. weight), but colour is the main determinant of quality. Based on the criteria, the price of an emerald can vary enormously from around fifty dollars to thousands of dollars at the top end. In 2017, (according to Gemfields) Zambian emeralds fetched an average of around $60 a carat at auction, a slight decrease from the value in 2016, but much higher than their value a decade earlier.
5. Emeralds have been mined for thousands of years
Emeralds have been mined since at least 1500 BC; the first gem was mined in Egypt. Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian queen who reigned shortly before the birth of Jesus, was said to have a passion for emeralds. Colombian emeralds were first discovered by Spanish conquerors in the 1500s, although the Inca people had mined emeralds for at least 500 years before the Spanish invasion.