Green beryl is called emerald. Or is it? An online search of green beryl -v- emerald will yield as many potential answers as search results itself. The naturally verdant gemstones were popular way before Cleopatra staked a claim and hoarded the colorful sparklers. Royalty has latched onto these lively stones ever since; adoring the insinuations that the color hints to new birth, spring, and life in general.
The 17th century Spanish priest and poet, Pedro Calderon de la Barca narrowed down this devotion, simply saying, “Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.”
Emeralds are costly and much sought after. So there’s a lot at stake over what defines emerald and what if anything else is actually green beryl, since emerald always commands a higher price point. The mind set of many in the trade is, “if it looks like an emerald, it is an emerald.” But others dig deeper and determine that the source of the coloration establishes the great divide.
Emerald, an intense green variety of beryl is colored by chromium or iron, and sometimes vanadium. Separation of these stones for the purpose of gem identification can only be conducted in laboratories. Many gem labs consider if a green beryl stone shows some chromium spectrum and presents a chromium percentage higher than 0.1% then you’ve got an emerald. If not, it’s a green beryl.
Both varieties of green beryl are striking and have fans worldwide. The lighter ones pose cutting challenges. The goal is to cut in an attractive facet pattern that will maximize the impression of color. True emeralds are classically polished in step cut facet arrangements; in other words they are cut in emerald cuts or some modification thereof. Their intense coloring is showcased to greater advantage this way.
But, clever cutters think of all sorts of ways to increase reflected light off of facets to push the impression of color in the lighter green beryl. That way jewelry fans can appreciate the attributes of this stone for its own beauty. Tairona Company’s Paul Levin applies skillful concave faceting to light toned green beryl. Concave faceting returns light to the eye in an expanded direction over flat faceting, making the stones appear lively and maximizing their vibrancy.
Green beryl or emerald, why not both? They both have traits that appeal to savvy colored stone fans today.