How Much Are Emeralds? Valuing This Precious Green Gem

With their rich, verdant color, emeralds have captivated humans for millennia. These precious green gems have adorned the crowns of queens, been worshipped for their spiritual powers, and are still highly coveted today in fine jewelry. But emeralds are also one of the rarest gemstones, making them extremely valuable. So how much do emeralds actually cost? As with most gems, the answer is: it depends. Emerald prices can range from under $1 per carat to over $100,000 per carat for truly exceptional stones. Let‘s dive deeper into the fascinating world of emeralds and the factors that determine their worth.

What is Emerald?

Emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl, with a chemical composition of Be3Al2(SiO3)6. What gives emerald its signature green color are trace amounts of chromium or vanadium. Emeralds range in hue from yellowish-green to bluish-green, with vivid, saturated greens being the most desirable.

These green gems have a long and storied history. Emeralds were mined in ancient Egypt as early as 1500 BCE, and Cleopatra was known to adorn herself and her palace with them. The Incas, Aztecs and Muzo Indians of Colombia also treasured emeralds and worshipped them in religious ceremonies. In more modern times, emerald mining spread to Brazil, Zambia, Pakistan and other countries, although Colombia remains the most famous and important source.

On a spiritual level, emeralds have long been believed to represent rebirth, renewal and springtime. They are thought to have healing properties and the abilities to improve memory, increase intelligence, ease stress and bring good luck. Emerald is the birthstone for May and also the gem given for 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

Factors That Determine Emerald Value

Like diamonds, emeralds are evaluated based on the "four Cs" – color, clarity, cut and carat weight. However, with emeralds, color is by far the most important value factor. Here‘s a more detailed look at each of the Cs:


The ideal emerald color is a vivid, saturated, bluish-green to pure green hue, with even color distribution and no color zoning visible to the naked eye. The most valuable colors are those that fall between 7.5 to 8 on the Munsell scale for hue and 2 to 3 for chroma (saturation). Colombian emeralds set the standard here and are known for their warm, grassy greens, while Zambian stones tend to have more of a bluish-green tone.


Unlike diamonds, inclusions are accepted and expected in emeralds. In fact, flawless emeralds are so rare that they practically don‘t exist. The term "jardin" (French for garden) is used to describe the mossy, plant-like inclusions typical in emeralds. As long as the inclusions don‘t significantly impact the durability and transparency of the stone, they are considered acceptable. However, emeralds that are "clean" or inclusion-free enough to be seen clearly through the top are more valuable.


Skilled cutting and polishing is essential for bringing out an emerald‘s color and brilliance. The most common cut for emeralds is the classic "emerald cut" featuring faceted corners and stepped sides. The emerald cut was actually developed specifically for this gem to protect it from chipping and breakage. Other popular shapes are the round, oval, pear and cushion cut. Symmetry, even facets and good proportions all contribute to a high quality emerald cut.

Carat Weight

As a general rule, the price per carat of emeralds goes up exponentially as the size increases, especially for high-quality stones. This is because larger emeralds are much rarer. A top quality 5-carat emerald could easily cost 5-10 times more per carat than a similar quality 1-carat stone. However, very large, lower grade emeralds may actually be worth less per carat than smaller, better quality gems. The largest faceted emerald in the world weighs 57,500 carats!

Other Value Factors

Aside from the four Cs, a few other key factors can impact an emerald‘s value:

  • Origin – Colombian emeralds are considered the global standard and command top prices, but emeralds from Zambia, Brazil and Afghanistan are also highly valuable. Provenance from a historically significant or famous mine may increase value.

  • Treatments – The vast majority of emeralds on the market (up to 99%) have been treated with oils, resins or polymers to improve their clarity and stability. Only emeralds with no post-growth treatments are called "untreated" and these are extremely rare and valuable. The type and extent of clarity enhancement has a big impact on price.

  • Natural vs Synthetic – Lab-created emeralds do exist, but are less common than natural stones. High quality synthetic emeralds can still be quite costly ($50-$150/ct) but pale in comparison to natural stones of the same size, color and clarity.

Emerald Quality Grades and Prices

Putting all these factors together, emeralds are typically sorted into four basic quality grades, each with a corresponding price per carat range. Keep in mind these prices may vary based on current market conditions.

Low Quality – $50-$300/carat

Also known as "commercial grade," these emeralds are usually heavily included with significant fractures that affect transparency and stability. The color is often too light or too dark and may have a grayish or brownish tint. Clarity treatments are extensive. Cut can be asymmetrical and proportions poor.

Medium Quality – $300-$1500/carat

These "fine quality" emeralds have better color saturation and tone. While still included, the clarity is high enough that you can see through the stone. Only moderate clarity enhancement. Well cut with good brilliance and shape appeal.

High Quality – $1500-$7500+/carat

"Extra fine quality" emeralds with vivid, saturated green color. Some visible inclusions but overall very good clarity. Skilled cutting with excellent proportion, symmetry and polish. Often from key sources like Colombia. Minimal oil or resin treatment only.

Top Quality – $8000-$15,000+/carat

The most exceptional emeralds with intense, vivid, perfectly distributed bluish-green color. Nearly flawless to the naked eye, or completely flawless with magnification. Masterful cutting with pristine polish. Extremely rare, especially in larger sizes. Often from the most famous Colombian mines like Muzo and Chivor.

Famous and Record-Breaking Emeralds

The history of emeralds includes many legendary stones that have fetched astonishing prices:

  • In 2017, the 18.04 carat "Rockefeller Emerald" sold at auction for over $5.5 million ($305,000 per carat), setting a new record price for emeralds.

  • Elizabeth Taylor‘s famous emerald pendant sold at auction for $6.5 million in 2011. The stone is now known as "The Elizabeth Taylor Emerald."

  • Owned by the royal rulers of Baroda State in India, the "Mogul Mughal Emerald" weighs a staggering 217.80 carats and is one of the largest and most famous emeralds in the world.

  • In 2019, a pair of emerald earrings, weighing 23.32 carats total, sold at Sotheby‘s for $4.5 million. The pear-shaped Colombian emeralds were described as "outstanding gems" with "a superb combination of size and quality."

Getting Your Emerald Appraised

Evaluating emeralds is a complex process requiring specialized gemological training and high-tech equipment. For an accurate grading and valuation of your emerald, it‘s best to work with a professional appraiser.

Seek out an appraiser who has credentials from a well-regarded institution like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the American Gem Society (AGS) or the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA). Ideally, they should have specific expertise and experience with colored gemstones like emeralds.

A thorough emerald appraisal will include an assessment of the four Cs, a determination of the gem‘s probable origin, and an analysis of any treatments or enhancements. You can expect a detailed grading report along with a value conclusion based on the current market. Retail replacement value appraisals for insurance purposes are the most common, but you can also request fair market value or liquidation value appraisals for reselling.

Where to Buy Emeralds

If you‘re in the market for an emerald yourself, it‘s important to buy only from reputable dealers that specialize in high quality gemstones. Here are a few trusted options:

  • Tiffany & Co – Known for their strict quality standards, Tiffany offers a stunning collection of emerald jewelry, most featuring Colombian stones.

  • Gemfields – This leading supplier of responsibly-sourced colored gemstones owns the famous Kagem emerald mine in Zambia. They supply top jewelers and also have their own emerald jewelry line.

  • Muzo Emerald Colombia – If you want a genuine Colombian emerald, this is the source. Muzo offers a range of cut stones, rough crystals, and finished emerald jewelry.

  • Leibish & Co – This online retailer stocks a wide selection of natural emeralds in different shapes, sizes and qualities, including rare untreated stones. They also have a bespoke jewelry service.

When shopping for emeralds, be sure to request details on the stone‘s grade, origin, and treatment status. Verify that the seller is using industry-accepted grading terminology and is willing to provide independent documentation like a lab report or appraisal. Watch out for deals that seem too good to be true. With such a valuable gemstone, it‘s better to invest in quality than quantity.

Caring For Your Emerald Jewelry

With a Mohs hardness rating of 7.5 to 8, emeralds are relatively durable. However, they are prone to chipping and their many inclusions can make them fragile. Treat your emerald jewelry with care, avoiding impacts and sudden temperature changes.

To clean emeralds, use only mild soap, lukewarm water and a soft brush. Never soak emeralds in water or put them in an ultrasonic cleaner as this can damage the fillers and treatments used to enhance clarity. Every few years, have emeralds checked and re-oiled by a professional jeweler to maintain their stability and luster. Always store emerald jewelry separately from other harder gems like diamonds.


Emeralds are truly exceptional gems. Their incredible depth of color, historical mystique, and undeniable rarity make them one of the most coveted and valuable of all gemstones. While prices vary based on quality factors, it‘s fair to say that a fine emerald will never be cheap. But for the many people who have fallen under this green gem‘s spell, emeralds are priceless. Whether you own a simple emerald pendant or a pedigree-stone ring passed down for generations, when you gaze into an emerald‘s endless green hue, you are looking at a true miracle of nature.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.