Beryl (var. emerald)
Emerald is the most valuable variety of the mineral beryl. Primarily green, it may also display tints of yellow or blue. The more pure green color the emerald displays, the greater its value. Its color is caused by impurity atoms of either chromium or vanadium, which are incorporated into the beryl crystals as they grow. This specimen of emerald crystals in a biotite schist matrix measures approximately 13.5 inches wide and 6 inches in height. It is from the Kagem Mine in Zambia, Africa’s largest emerald producer, which has been mining gem quality emeralds since 1984. Even though Colombian emeralds are still considered the finest, Zambian emeralds have found their place in the gem trade due to their color, clarity and brilliance. Rarely are emerald crystals of decent size and good color preserved; they are usually cut into gemstones. This specimen is a major upgrade for the Smithsonian’s National Mineral Collection and a wonderful representation of how emeralds are found in nature.