Are emeralds really that much more expensive than diamonds?
December 24, 2010 11:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for emeralds for an engagement ring and can't shake the feeling that I'm going to be paying a lot more than I should. Does anyone have any experience buying emeralds?

This summer I started looking for an engagement ring. I found exactly what I was looking for - a white gold three stone setting (round-cut) with a particular design. It would accept a 4.5 mm stone, flanked by two 3 mm stones. In diamond terms, this would be a 0.33 carat and two 0.1 carat stones.

There is no question about the fact that my girlfriend wants emeralds. I think that this is great, because I think diamonds are a little boring.

Things started getting a little curious when I started looking for three matching emeralds. I have spoken to two reputable jewellers in my hometown and recieved a number of quotes. Each jeweller only sells emeralds that are a particular apple-green and don`t have any visible inclusions. I understand that this comes at a premium.

So, the quotes that I have recieved are in the 2-3 thousand USD range. There are two things that I don`t completely understand about this. First, is that these three stones cost considerably more than a single emerald of equivalent weight (about twice as much) and that they are also much more expensive that good quality diamonds of the same size (again about double). Neither jeweller would give me a straight answer when I asked about this.

I would really appreciate if anyone had any insight into the emerald buying process or could confirm that $3000 is a reasonable price for high quality emeralds of this size.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep to Shopping (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Emeralds are much more expensive than diamonds, in the US at least. That's why they're charging you more than for diamonds of the same gem weight.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:51 AM on December 24, 2010

The other thing is that emeralds are hard to cut well, so you're paying a premium for the cutting on each smaller stone. Emeralds can shatter during the cutting process--especially for complicated multifaceted cuts.

The third thing is that some of the world's largest emerald fields are in Pakistan, and between the floods and the terrorism/unrest, those mines are either shut down or operating under capacity, so the market is undersupplied right now.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:54 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The reason you're getting those quotes is the difficulty in finding gemstones to match in terms of size, cut, color, and appearance. If you're looking for natural, non-treated stones, that also makes prices go up. For the sizes you're looking at, though, I do think it's on the high side, especially for 0.1ct natural stones and a 0.3ct center stone. Regardless of what jeweler you do end up working with, make sure they give you GIA reports.

If you haven't already, start reading through PriceScope's Colored Stones forum - loads of good info there.
posted by evoque at 12:29 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

The reason you're getting those quotes is the difficulty in finding gemstones to match in terms of size, cut, color, and appearance.

This is a really good point, and another place where this is a lot more challenging with emeralds than with diamonds (or even than with rubies and sapphires). Matching colors on natural emeralds is complicated.

And evoque's suggestion that you be sure to get the GIA reports is so wise that I feel like an idiot not having thought to make it myself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:41 PM on December 24, 2010

Have you thought about looking around for some pieces of estate jewelry that have the right size/color/quality of emeralds you want and then having them reset into your chosen setting?
posted by amyms at 12:47 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: amyms, I hadn't thought of that. I'm not sure where to start, but that is an interesting idea.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 12:53 PM on December 24, 2010

The reason you'll want to insist on GIA reports is that you don't want to pay for mined stones only to get lab-created. Nothing wrong with lab-created gems, mind you, but you'll want to get your money's worth.

That said, would you consider getting lab stones? You can get a perfectly matched set of 0.1ct rounds for $30, which would open up your budget significantly.
posted by evoque at 1:47 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't know if this helps regarding the buying process:

I have a custom sapphire ring that took almost a year to put together. We worked with a local Dallas jeweler, not a national chain. What we were told during the process is that, because colored stones are not the norm for engagement rings, jewelers simply don't carry many in inventory (especially not high-dollar stones like emeralds, rubies, sapphires), nor does the wholesale market have easy access to trays of dozens of non-diamond stones.

Every couple of months, our jeweler would "get in" a set of 5-6 sapphires that were in our specs, on consignment from other jewelers, and my SO would go in to have a look. Then lather, rinse and repeat until he found the right one.

So if this was our experience for the one colored stone, I can only imagine what it would have been for three matching ones. There simply isn't the retail supply to make it as easy as buying diamonds.
posted by pineapple at 4:17 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: evoque, I had not considered lab created emeralds. The idea doesn't bother me, but I'm not sure what the future recipient will think of it. Are you aware of any other retailers of lab created emeralds?

pineapple, this is what I have been doing. The first thing I did was find out which jewellers would be able to show me emeralds, then I got them to bring sets in for me to look at. In both cases they are showing me jems that are from their suppliers. It has been a long process. Six months and I have only seen four sets of gems.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 4:49 PM on December 24, 2010

The flawed quality of natural emeralds also makes them more prone to damage, so if your fiance intends to wear the ring all the time, pick a setting that will help protect the emeralds. My sister-in-law was talked out of emeralds by her jeweler because she wanted to wear her ring constantly, so she ended up with sapphires and diamonds (and I've chipped my engagement sapphire on a rock, no one can tell except me, but big sigh). Emeralds are gorgeous stones, and the inclusions actually give them lots of character, but they need to be treated with great care in wear and cleaning.
posted by girlhacker at 6:07 PM on December 24, 2010

would she consider other green stones? I have used and liked them a lot, and they have some beautiful tourmalines. Some green sapphires as well, but their color is nowhere near as nice as the tourmalines.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:19 PM on December 24, 2010

Rio Grande sells emeralds, and lab-made stones; it looks like prices aren't listed on the site, but last time I ordered a catalogue it was only $10 and well worth it. They also carry ring settings.
posted by kmennie at 6:35 AM on December 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

My husband got the lab-created emerald in my wedding ring off Ebay.

Definitely talk to the recipient to see if she might like it. I originally disliked the idea of an emerald that didn't have the characteristic emerald inclusions, but when I saw the stone, I was floored -- dark green and clear as glass, and less fragile than a mined stone (good because I am klutzy and a danger to even a safe setting).
posted by freshwater at 10:39 AM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she's wanting the color, I'd suggest that you also might consider tsavorite garnet. It's a beautiful green, fairly inexpensive, has the refractive index of a diamond (i.e., it's really sparkly) and it holds up to wear.
posted by bizzyb at 7:37 PM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older How does one do videotape in 2011?   |   Jingle Bell Rock: non-holiday songs with bells Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.