Raw emeralds, stones that have not been cut and polished or otherwise treated, present a somewhat rugged image in many cases. Until the stone is cleaned and cut, it may not look like an emerald at all. The raw stones offer a dramatic beauty all their own, reminding the wearer of the geological forces that shaped them.
A raw emerald that has not been cleaned resembles an irregular greenish rock more than anything else. Clean it and free the emerald from any surrounding rock and the stone may show some of the familiar green crystalline structure, or it may display a jadelike opacity. One or more sides of the stone may exhibit the angularity of a crystal.
Raw emeralds occur in sizes ranging from flecks within rock formations to boulder-size stones. Larger stones include the Bahia Emerald at 386 Kilogram or approximately 180,000 carats, and the 858-pound Gachala Emerald. In February 2010, the Insofu Emerald, a fist-size raw emerald found in Zambia, weighed in at 6,225 carats or nearly two and three-quarter pounds.
Look for raw emeralds in South America (primarily Colombia and Brazil), India, and parts of eastern Africa and southern Asia. In North America, North Carolina selected the emerald as the state mineral and several mines exist there. Some sites offer "mine your own" opportunities for a fee.
Normally colourless, beryl takes on the hue of impurities within its structure. The exact shading of an emerald depends upon the proportions of chromium and vanadium within the stone and the concentration of the impurities. Other less-valuable stones, such as green tourmaline or chromium diopside, may mimic the rich green colour of an emerald.
Use care when handling emeralds. Their relative fragility led to the development of the "emerald cut" for gems in order to minimise stress on the stone during cutting. Even raw stones can sustain chips or fractures from blows.
Raw emeralds, as well as other untreated gemstones, have increased their presence in the fashion world with the uptick in environmental awareness. The stones sometimes receive a general smoothing prior to setting. Others may remain embedded within the stone in which they were found. Wear one of the stones on a chain as a pendant or string a group of them for a necklace or bracelet. Use a pair of similarly shaped and coloured stones to form attractive earrings. When sliced into thin wafers, raw emeralds add translucent colour to a pin or other jewellery.