By the time we arrived back to Bogota after touring the emerald mines, one thing was clear; The amount of work it takes to remove an emerald from the earth has given me an entirely new appreciation for them. Ironically, despite all that, the work has only just begun. Before an emerald can be put into a ring or a pair of earrings, the journey that emerald is about to embark on is one that Chance, Sassy, and Shadow would be proud of.
On our trip, we managed to pick up a few Muzo emeralds, and we’ve partnered with @muzoemeralds and his in-house master cutter, Ricardo, to cut these new gems with the goal of building an engagement ring collection around them.
In general, the rough emerald (once it’s been mined) will be graded and discussed onsite, or at the nearest town by the mines owner or production manager. From there, the owner will either have it cut himself - by his own cutters in Bogota - or try and sell the rough emerald directly to someone like us. This is where we take on a significant amount of risk.
Emeralds are a notoriously difficult gem to cut so if the owner takes on the risk of getting them cut himself, he could potentially end up with a devalued, or worthless, stone. Even the best Colombian emerald cutters have been fooled by rough emeralds. This because emeralds are often attached to rock formations, and if the imperfections remain undetected and come in contact with the polishing wheel, the entire emerald can combust and become unsalvageable.
So, when we buy an uncut emerald for a lower price, it’s the owners way of hedging his bet. Hedging involves cutting into a potentially larger profit by ensuring you will walk away with something. For example, if you bet the Las Vegas Knights, at 200/1, to win the Stanley Cup you’ll probably want to put a couple bucks on whoever they are playing if they make it through another round.
Basically, if the owner of the emerald gets a satisfactory price for the emerald(s) in his possession, it makes more sense to take the guaranteed money continue on with their mining operation.
Upon purchase, we get both an uncut emerald and an increase in risk. We then have Ricardo inspect the stone, looking both at its shape and yield potential, in order to figure out which method provides maximum potential to capture the best possible colour. With emeralds, colour occurs in various pockets and predicting how light will affect it is very tricky.
Due to its delicate nature, the cutting process for a single emerald can take 4-8 weeks. Assuming it goes well, we are left with another fork in the road. We can sell the emerald as a loose gem, either through Cavalier or to another dealer; or, we can keep it and design an engagement ring that will appeal to someone looking for a finished product.
In order to make the best decisions for our clients, we ask ourselves the following questions:
Is the quality what we thought it would be?
Should we keep it loose or design a custom ring around it?
What is the market price for a loose gem, or more specifically, what would a collector pay for a Fine Colombian Emerald of this particular grade?
The Emerald Exchange market in Bogota is a scene in itself. There’s nothing else like it. We’ve been to gem markets throughout Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong, and New York, and I can say that Bogota Emerald Exchange is the most interesting and unique. It screams Colombia. Everything from how the dealers dress, interact, package, and sell the emeralds.
It’s a combination of these obstacles that gives us a new meaning of appreciation for each emerald’s journey from mine to market.