There are many famous emeralds, but the Rockefeller emerald stands out among them all. It is not the largest emerald in the world, or even the largest gem quality emerald. However, it is the largest flawless emerald in the world and the most expensive emerald at $5.5 million USD. Not to be confused with the most expensive colored gemstone (that title belongs to the Sunrise Ruby), much less the most expensive gemstone ever. The most expensive gemstone is a diamond, and diamonds are treated as a completely separate market.
In addition to being a miracle of nature in terms of clarity for an emerald, the color is a bluish green with medium tone and the perfect saturation to show off the color. It is truly impossible to imagine a better emerald than this in any way possible aside from size.
Like most emeralds that go to auction, the Rockefeller emerald is from Colombia. Despite being a gem source with hundreds of years of history, Colombia is still a prolific emerald source. The country alone supplies roughly 90% of all gem quality emeralds, as well as being the standard for the best-quality emeralds. This makes the odds of finding a gem-quality emerald from somewhere other than Colombia overwhelmingly low, though Brazil and Zambia do produce the remaining 10% of emeralds of the market.
Also note that some vendors will use the term “Colombian Emerald” as a measure of quality instead of origin, which is very misleading when discussing emeralds for other sources. No lab report will ever be marked this way unless the emerald was actually mined in Colombia. Fine quality emeralds can come from other sources too! Take E1356 below; it is untreated and a perfect emerald green color.
E1356 | play
Emerald ID: E1356 – Weight: 3.85 Carats – Origin: Zambia – Treatment: None
Note that the color in the 360 video and the gem report are somewhat different, which is not unusual. Most lab reports have low color accuracy with the attached gem photos, especially since green colors do not show up well on camera.
While the bluish green is the rarest and most desirable color of emeralds, it is not as scarce as ideal colors in other gems like rubies or sapphires. This is partially due to how emeralds are named. Emeralds are a variety of beryl, along with green beryl. Yes, you read that right. While both are varieties of beryl that have been colored green, green beryl and emeralds are considered separate gems within the industry based on their color. This is why emeralds fall into a pretty narrow color range. Generally speaking, the tone is the main distinction between emeralds and green beryl.
Aside from the hue or actual color of an emerald, saturation is not as much of an issue since vendors will only stock bright, vivid colors. Gems with unappealing color simply do not sell.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller was the first known owner of the Rockefeller emerald. It was originally set in a brooch along with other spectacular emeralds, and was supposedly designed by Van Cleef & Arpels. Her husband, John D. Rockefeller Jr. was also close personal and professional friends with Raymond Carter Yard, a jewelry designer whose name is stamped into the history of 20th century jewelry. After his wife Abby passed away Rockefeller Jr. took this spectacular brooch to Yard and had it disassembled, hence the ambiguity of who designed the original brooch.
These emeralds were distributed to their children, with the largest one, seen above, given to David Rockefeller. David brought the emerald to Yard to be set in the simple ring we know it as today.
There are many legendary emeralds, including a set known as the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels. It includes not only necklaces and tiaras, but snuff boxes, water pipes, plates, and even swords and shields.
In terms of quality and importance, the only emeralds to come close in recent memory is Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari emerald collection which is a complete set including a necklace, earrings, ring, and a bracelet.