How to identify AAA quality emeralds

Written by gail cohen
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How to identify AAA quality emeralds
The highest-quality emeralds on Earth are mined in Columbia, South Africa. (emerald ring image by studio vision 1 from

Remarkable-looking synthetic emeralds are being sold to unsuspecting buyers seeking AAA-quality emeralds, so apply due diligence when you set about differentiating high-quality stones from gems of lower grade. Enlist the help of the American Gemological Laboratories (AGL) via its website to apply due diligence to your investigation, since this organisation has been the acknowledged authority on colour stones since 1977. Follow the AGL grading system and spring for an appraisal, and you'll be confident you did a thorough job unearthing AAA-quality emeralds.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Emeralds
  • Digital camera
  • Appraisal
  • Jeweller's loop

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  1. 1

    Photograph the emerald you're seeking to learn more about using a digital camera, but don't worry about the size and colour resolution of the image you take, as the picture is used by appraisers and emerald authorities to verify the grade of a stone that's been given a AAA rating.

  2. 2

    Use the shape and cut of the emerald you're considering as an indicator of a AAA designation. Opt for thick rather than flat, as deep emeralds are considered finer and more desirable (shallow gemstones tend to be graded lower). Take the emerald to a local jeweller. Ask to have it weighed, as professional scales are manufactured to sense imperceptible differences in the number of carats found in a high-quality stone.

  3. 3

    Expect a quality emerald to be slotted into the AGL colour rating scale that's no higher than 3.5, the highest number given to AAA gems despite the fact that the AGL scale runs from one to 10 (10 is considered the poorest grade).

  4. 4

    Look for highly saturated, lush emerald green colours that are the essence of a primary value, as only these colours are given a AAA rating (e.g., if the green in your emerald contains just 65 per cent of primary green, it would be graded in the neighbourhood of 4.5 on the colour scale).

  5. 5

    Ascertain the country of origin of the emeralds you're investigating. AAA natural emeralds originate from Columbian mines. Expect emeralds from such nations as Brazil or Zambia to miss the cut-off point that separates the highest-quality Columbian emeralds from lower grades mined at other sites.

  6. 6

    Evaluate the number and size of "inclusions" or cuts seen when examining an emerald with both the naked eye and a jeweller's loop. Find out where the gem fits on the inclusion scale--imperceptible cuts are most desirable; to be considered AAA the emerald should bear a "1" for excellence.

  7. 7

    Consult with an appraiser unless you have been trained to discern differences in emeralds to avoid being scammed. Ask for credentials that verify your appraiser's affiliation with a recognised accreditation or certification authority to lessen your risk; should something happen to your AAA-rated emerald down the road, you don't want to find yourself relying on an appraisal from a company that's not considered credible by the insurance industry.

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