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Brazil

Emerald Mining In Brazil

Brazil emeralds mines map
A map of the Minas Gerais region of emerald mining in Brazil.

Fueled by rumors of emerald deposits equaling those of Colombia, explorers penetrated the jungles of Brazil as early as the middle of the 16th century, and Portuguese explorers were well aware of the presence of emerald deposits by the 17th century.  While many of the early “emeralds” found in the region were actually green tourmaline, the extraction of stones began on a real basis, and emeralds, gold, diamonds, and many other gemstones were soon being exported on a regular basis.

Modern Presence Of Emeralds In Brazil

Today, emeralds are mined in the states of Ceará, Bahia, Goiás, and Minas Gerais.  According to Sinkankas (1981):

Bahia Brazil emerald mines map
A map of the Bahia region of emerald mining in Brazil.

“In respect to gem beryls, Minas Gerais is the world’s most important producer, surpassing all other countries both in terms of the largest production sustained over several centuries and in quality (with the notable exception of pink beryls, the finest of which stem from Madagascar).”

Since the 1970s, Brazil has served as a consistent source of emeralds. The emeralds of Brazil have typically been perceived as commercial quality stones.  They tend to be both lighter in tone and saturation than their famous cousins from Colombia.  Many of the Brazilian stones are also bluer than those from Colombia due to increased amounts of the trace element iron.

According to the Gemological Institute of America:

About 35 percent of the top-quality rough that is mined in Brazil is also cut there. About 95 percent of that rough is enhanced with unhardened colorless Opticon (resin) before it goes to one of five cutting centers.

Belmont emerald mine Brazil
A sweeping view of an area of the famed Belmont mine in Brazil.

However, perception has been shifting over the last few decades as more gem-quality stones from the Itabira/Nova Era belt have been presenting as incredibly clean with fine color and good transparency. Expanding mining operations have also revealed new deposits that were previously untapped.

Belmont emerald Brazil
A lovely emerald from the Belmont mine in Brazil.

As with every mining endeavor, there are going to be environmental repercussions. As a result, the government has placed strict environmental regulations on mines, and higher labor costs have resulted in more expensive operations. Land owners still maintain a lot of power leading to disagreements that sometimes develop into legal issues with independent miners. With the investment in advanced mining technology as well as more skilled domestic cutters entering the trade, the future of the Brazilian emerald industry is looking very promising.

Continuing our regional exploration, we now shift continents to explore Emerald Mines in Russia.

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