Emerald Mining in Russia
While not one of the worldwide providers of emeralds, Russia is capable of producing gem quality emeralds. Much of it is carved into beautiful forms, though faceted examples do exist. Unfortunately, the term Uralian emerald (a place where emeralds are mines) is also used to refer to demantoid garnets. Ones
These emeralds were originally confused with high-quality Alexandrite, which is green under daylight, and red by candlelight. They are also mined together in the Ural mountains.
Since color and quality is a range in any gemstone source, there are plenty of exceptions to the emerald colors typically produced in Russia. That being said, Russian emeralds are typically green without any bluish colors modifying it. Lastly, the biggest reason beyond their scarcity on the market is Russian emeralds are usually more included than Colombian emeralds.
Emeralds are highly included anyways, so this makes finding emeralds clear enough to facet even rarer than in other sources. As a result most Russian emeralds are carved and cut as a cabochon, instead of being faceted.
Emerald Mining History
Out of all possible emerald sources in Russia, the mine in the Ural mountains produces the most. They were officially discovered in the early 19th century, though may have been a source of Scythian emeralds mentioned by Pliny (23-79 A.D.) in his Natural History (Sinkankas 1981).
Also notable about the mines, specifically the Malysheva mines, is that they are more highly developed than most gemstone mines. This is because they were used as mines for beryllium during Soviet rule after World War I, and the emeralds and alexandrite were byproducts. The point of the beryllium was to develop Soviet nuclear and defense industries, which meant a lot of money was sunk into making Malysheva productive. These mines are one of the most impressive examples of mining infrastructure in the world.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century, plans to return the mines to emerald production could not move forward. This is because the economy had collapsed as well, and needed foreign investment in order to bring the mines back. As a result the mines have come back to life in the last decade with some foreign control.
With modern study, it has been revealed that the Malysheva mine is developed on one of the world’s most significant emerald deposits. It consists of a 1.4 kilometer portion at the northern end of the 25 kilometer Ural Emerald Field. It is believed that the Malysheva mine could contain upwards of 80 percent of the known emerald reserves of the Ural Emerald Field.
All gem production is inconsistent, akin to a lottery. There can be years between major emerald pockets found. However, the mines from the Ural mountains are not as consistent with top-quality gem production like Colombia or Zambia. As a result it is rare to find faceted Russian emeralds one the market, though famed Russian jewelers like Faberge have used emeralds from Malysheva on numerous occasions.
Production stands to increase in Russia in the future as better mining techniques are generating larger amounts of usable emeralds.