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Article: Emeralds through history


Emeralds through history

The oldest emeralds date back about 2.97 billion years. The first of these gems were extracted in Egypt around 1,500 BC, in fact, this was one of the favorite stones of Cleopatra, the most famous Egyptian queen in history, whose passion for this stone was remarkable.

Chronologically, emeralds are known to have been discovered in South America in the 16th century by the Spanish and were used by the Incas long before this discovery.

The emerald has always been a gem with a lot of history and mystical value, which for generations has made it unique and valuable. In the world there are several of them that are recognized for their unusual color or large size, these are the oldest and most recognized emeralds in the world

Emerald Timeline

1.800 AC

To  talk about the first emeralds in history, we refer to Upper Egypt BC (Before Christ), to the mines of Sikair-Zubara, very close to the port city of Berenice.

These mines were known as "Smaragdus Mons" (mountains of emeralds) and it is believed that the exploitation of these mines dates back to 1800 BC However, by the time of Queen Cleopatra, who felt a great weakness for emeralds, their production was running out

30 A.C

Cleopatra promoted the exploitation of these mines that over time were called "Cleopatra's Mines". After the death of Marco Antonio and after Cleopatra in  30 A.C. the exploitation of these mines was abandoned.


Discovery of America, the Spanish recognized the first emeralds from this area of ​​the planet


The Gebel de Zubara mine would be discovered until 1816 by the Frenchman Frederic Cailiaud


For this year, the El Wadi Gimal and El Wadi Sikait deposits in Egypt were rediscovered. However, the world was already learning about the beauty and perfection of the emeralds discovered after the Spanish conquest.

History of emeralds in Colombia


The history of the Colombian emerald begins with the discovery of America in 1492. This fact provides a historical break on the presence of the emerald in the world, since national emeralds begin to stand out from the rest.

In the 16th century, the Spanish outpost arrived in Peru and found the Incas and their gold ornaments and large, high-quality emeralds. This caught the attention of the Spaniards, who subjected the Incas to heavy punishment and torture so that they reveal the location of the emerald mines.

The Incas could not indicate the location of these deposits, since emeralds did not exist in their territories as they were obtained through barter with the tribes that inhabited Colombian territory.


In the year 1537, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada obtained the first real indication of the source of the emeralds upon reaching Guachetá and different towns in Cundinamarca where they found significant amounts of gold and emeralds.

As they advanced to Boyacá, they met the Muzos, a people who had fought for 20 years against the military superiority of the Spanish and did not reveal the location of the mines even if it meant their extermination.

However, despite the efforts, the deposits were found by the Spanish by chance. They tried to establish the first mining works in 1558 without success due to the constant attacks of the Indians.


After attacks, the passing of power from one command to another and the arrival of the independence of the municipalities of Boyacá and Cundinamarca, the national government published Law 31 of 1870 years later, by which the state declared any deposit as its property. that was discovered from the date together with the properties that comprised them.


1875 until 1886 when they returned the management of the mines to the national government in 1886. This year the constitution of 1886 was written, which included the reserve and ownership of the emerald mines to the Colombian state.

Most famous emeralds in history

  • Esmeralda ¨La Emilia¨

Its name is in honor of the ¨Vega de San Juan¨ mine located in the municipality of Gachalá, Cundinamarca in Colombia. It was found in 1967 and is one of the most precious emeralds in the world for its intense and brilliant green color. It has a large size, 858 carats and is currently in the National Museum of History in Washington.

  • Esmeralda Teodora

The largest cut emerald in the world, it was discovered in Brazil and is now owned by rare gem dealer Regan Reany in Canada. It is known for its dark green color and weight of 57 thousand carats, with its oval brilliant cut.

  • Esmeralda Fura

It is the second largest after the Teodora emerald, found in 1999 along with another smaller emerald called Tena in the Muzo mines in Colombia. It is famous for its nearly 15 thousand carats and its intense green color. From this discovery there is the ancient legend of Furatena.

  • tena emerald

This emerald owes its name to an indigenous legend of Furatena, as we mentioned before, it was discovered together with a larger emerald named Fura, this legend originates from the populations of the mountains of Colombia. Its butterfly green color makes it more striking and valuable; and weighs about 2 thousand carats. It was sold in New York for $2 million.

  • Emerald Catherine the Great

This emerald is the second largest rough emerald in the world and originates from the mines of Muzo, Colombia. It is of an intense green color, weighs 4,700 carats and is pure, which makes it the most valuable in the world. These characteristics have positioned it in this way according to studies by prestigious institutions such as: GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and Gübelin Switzerland.

Paula A. Bonilla

Social communicator and journalist from Sergio Arboleda University in Colombia. She is also a jeweler and is passionate about constantly learning about precious gems and national high jewelry.

Currently, she is working for one of Bogotá's most important jewelry stores, Emerald by Love. This jewelry store has over 40 years of experience and has 2 physical branches in the capital city of Colombia, located in the city center.

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