goldsmiths • jewelers • gemologists

The Emerald of Colombia: Part I
(Emeralds; The God's Shed Green Tears)

by Richard W. Wise, G.G.


Green Gold:

There they sat, scattered like match sticks across the white desk blotter, glowing a rich cool green in the late afternoon sun. My breath catches in my throat. I do my best to maintain my cool, to politely keep my eyes on those of my host, a suave youngish Colombian businessman in a white dress shirt, the jacket of an expensive pin-striped suit thrown over the back of his desk chair. "Youngish" is, of course, a relative term when you're pushing 63. The dealer smiles and motions me to a seat and there they were right in front of me, a king’s ransom of emerald crystals. I try not to dwell on the four tough looking guys with the semi-automatic rifle in the room we passed though on the way into the office. They too wore nice suits.

This was a sight I never expected to see. I have traveled all over the world and seen a number of exceptional gemstones but never have I seen a rough parcel of such high quality

of anything, anywhere, never mind gem emerald. I pick up one crystal, it is a bit distorted in form but it is clean and the size of my thumb. I hold it up to the light. Completely clean a medium dark slightly bluish green. I do notice an interesting pattern of zoning, several thin dark lines, almost black, that run perpendicular to the length of the crystal.

“That one cost me $35,000”, the dealer volunteers.
“How much does it weigh”, I ask.

He places the crystal on a scale. I do a quick calculation. The price comes to $1, 411.00 per carat.

The dealer, perhaps regretting his candor with the inquisitive American author, hastens to add that the average yield in cut stones is only about 25%.

Point taken!, that means the average cost of the parcel after cutting works out to $5,644.00 per carat. This is beginning to sound like a multi-million dollar crap shoot because, as we are about to witness, this parcel contains a range of qualities.

Columbia’s Top Cutter:

Senor Adolpho Argotty is considered Columbia’s top emerald cutter. Now 55 he began cutting when he was 15 years old. His father wanted to be a cutter but was not very good at it. Argotty laughs, “so he became a teacher.”

We have been invited to watch Senor Argotty cut two rough crystals from the big La Pita parcel; one weighs 7.17 carats the other 8.53 carats. Argotty works by hand, literally! After examining the two crystals for a few minutes he takes one and casually puts it to the wheel. I see no scales, no calipers, no jam-peg, no measuring devices of any kind, not even a ruler.

The first step is called pre-forming; it is the most important step and requires the highest degree of skill. The wheel is charged with diamond grit mixed with water. The pre-former decides what to keep and what to cut out and that determines the shape and weight of the finished gem. The facets will be added later.