Emeralds are, without a doubt, one of the most sought out gemstones and have been popular for centuries. There are several different sources for emeralds around the world, but it has Colombia, in South America has been considered the many source for a long time. However, Zambian emerald vs Colombian Emerald, Zambian are a strong competitor and are the second largest producer of emeralds.

With most of the world’s supply of emeralds coming from these two countries, it makes sense to ask: What is the difference between Zambian and Colombian emeralds, and which is best to buy?

This article gives you a brief guide into the distinctive characteristics of each country’s emerald, as well as giving you some information on which one you should buy. We already know our choice, what will yours be?

1Characteristics of Colombian Emeralds

Colombia is known for exporting many things, and in terms of emeralds, it has been the worldwide leader for some time now. The South American country produces between 70% and 90% of the global emerald supply, and their stones are renowned for their quality and bright color. There are three main mines: Coscuez, Chivor and Muzo, and between them, they produce some of the best quality emeralds ever found.

Chromium in the emeralds mineral composition is what give Colombian Emeralds their color. They have a dark leafy, pure green color, beautiful to look at. However, the Colombian stones normally have more inclusions than their Zambian cousins. This is due to their mineral composition. Colombian Emeralds are made from mostly sedimentary rocks, and this results in what is know as ‘Jardin’ (Spanish for Garden), referring to the threadlike inclusions that can be found inside the gem.

Colombian Emeralds also tend to be more expensive than the African gemstones. It makes sense, as the South American emeralds are more well-known and are considered more prestigious in the gemstone industry and community, thanks to the country’s mining history. However, this could be changing soon. Another price-influencing factor is how difficult they are to cut.

Rough Colombian Emeralds can be tough to facet because of how the coloring agents are distributed inside the stone itself. This happens as the gemstone is formed, and in the case of Colombian Emeralds, their surface has a stronger color. The cutter has to work with great care to make sure they don’t cut away the best part of the stones natural color and leaving a lighter colored gem. This work of labor and expertise also result in the emeralds having a high market value.

2Characteristics of Zambian Emeralds

Zambia is surrounded by countries known for their gemstones (Tanzanite from Tanzania and Rubies from Mozambique for example). When they were first mined in 1976, the large supply available in the mines caused a stir in the gemstone industry and community. Today, those mines contribute to around 20% of the world emerald supply.

In recent years, Zambian Emeralds have begun raising in popularity, as the industry and the community begin to appreciate the high-quality of the emeralds mined in the country. The two key features that distinguish Zambian from Colombian emeralds: Zambian emeralds have a greater level of clarity and they have a very desirable and vivid green bluish color, thanks to iron in their mineral composition.

You may find it surprising that Zambian Emeralds are still more affordable than South American ones. They have been slowly increasing in price, but they are still a perfect option for those who are looking for a stunning emerald but can’t afford a Colombian gem. This, by no means, means that Zambian Emeralds are of lesser quality. As a matter of fact, they better clarity and color are comparable to any gemstone minded in Colombia. However, the South American country, as we mentioned before, has a better reputation and a longer history in producing high-quality emeralds, which is why they still come first.

3Zambian Emerald Production

Zambian Emeralds did not become an alternative to Colombian Emeralds right away, it took time. It is a similar situation to Mozambique rubies being accepted for replacing those from Burma. In 1989, Tiffany & Co. began promoting Zambian Emeralds, and if you have ever heard of Tanzanite, you know how good the company is at promoting new gemstones.

Currently, Zambia is responsible for producing around 20% of the world’s emeralds. The Kagem Mine is the largest in the country.

4KAGEM Mining by Gemfields

Gemfields is UK company who play a major role in the production of Zambian Emeralds. They are also responsible for the ethical and responsible mining of Mozambique Rubies. The British company has been essential for the promotion of African stones, especially Zambian Emeralds, enlisting the help from celebrities such as Mila Kunis to wear them on the red carpet.

The pride of Gemfields is their ethical and responsible mining operations. All rough material is mined under controlled environments. Workers are paid fairly and treated well. They then auction off the rough material in Singapore. The rough is then cut, polished and faceted into stones ready to be turned into jewelry and released to the market.

5Zambian Emerald vs Colombian Emerald – Which Should I Buy?

Both gemstones have similar properties. They both have a hardness of between 7.5 to 8 on the MOHS scale too. However, it is the inclusions and other factors which make emeralds a fragile stone which needs proper care and cannot be used as a daily accessory. 

The main differences between the two are: 

  • Color. Colombian Emeralds are greener, while Zambian gemstones tend to have a slight hint of blue, adding depth to the stone.
  • Zambian Emeralds have a better clarity and few inclusions.
  • Zambian Emeralds are lower priced than they South American cousins, perfect for buyers on a budget.
  • Colombian Emeralds have a better and longer lasting reputation for being of high-quality.
  • Colombian Emeralds can be harder to cut.

Furthermore, Zambian Emeralds are controlled by Gemfields, a company known for ethical and controlled mining, who protect the workers and the environment surrounding the mines, control illegal and overmining, as well as giving back to local communities.