The Strange Story of the “World’s Largest Emerald”

When I first heard about the “world’s largest emerald,” I thought, I hope this isn’t another story like the “world’s largest diamond.” 

The “world’s largest diamond,” you may or may not remember, was a purported 8,000 ct. diamond discovered somewhere in South Africa in 2007. But when Melody Brandon, a reporter from the Johannesburg Sunday Times, met the owner of the land where the stone was supposedly found, this transpired

[The owner] wouldn’t let them use [a diamond] tester [on the stone], saying it “wouldn’t work.” Brandon briefly held the stone and found it “too light” for a diamond. “It had bubbles in it,” she says. When [the owner] tested the stone with his own device, Brandon noticed it still had its cap on and was set to “manual,” so he could manipulate it.

When [the owner] was confronted about this, he “turned pale,” Brandon says, “and went on this ramble that he had to speak to his lawyer”…

Now, the so-called “world’s largest emerald” debuted with a little more back-up. A gemologist had looked at it, and issued his verdict. It definitely existed. And it is, clearly, a striking stone. 

The problem is, while it’s safe to call it a stone, there is a debate over whether it’s an emerald; even the appraiser who valued it said he has no idea how much of it is emerald. And given the fact that it is at least partly dyed, the GIA has said it wouldn’t likely term it “an emerald.” 

As Roskin Gem News Report publisher Gary Roskin explains: 

The problem with identifying a piece like this as to whether or not it is an emerald, is in finding out what has colored the object. If it was not green naturally, and has been colored by organic dyes, then it was, and is, simply a beryl that now LOOKS like an emerald, but it is NOT an emerald. Of course, it could have been a weak colored emerald that was color-enhanced by dye. But someone has to prove that to be true.

The growing list of doubts likely led to the stone not selling this weekend, although the auctioneer maintains there is still “a pile of interest.”

Some thoughts:

A week ago, a debate erupted on our site over whether jewelers, rather than labs, should grade their own diamonds. Some have even asked if labs are really necessary. This episode shows that, for all their faults, grading labs remain important, and for maximum assurance buyers are always going to want an independent third-party expert viewpoint.

Secondly, it is worth asking: Why do these stories keep coming up? Why are they so fascinating to people?  

Clearly, thinking about a watermelon-size emerald tickles something inside of us. It stimulates the imagination. And these stories are great publicity for our industry, as they reinforce the idea that (most) gems are created by nature, and for all we have done to control nature, the physical world retains a power to surprise us. Of course, this particular stone doesn’t seem to actually be a 57,000 ct. emerald. But the exciting thing is, a gem that size could still be out there, waiting to be found.  

JCK News Director