I’m a colored stone guy. I love colored stones. I love selling colored stones. I love helping people foster a greater appreciation for colored stones. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that not all colored gems are created equal, and it’s important for a client to know their options when designing a piece of jewelry. When it comes to any fine gemstone, sometimes alternatives need to be sought, either because of budget, or because of the type of jewelry I’m designing for an individual who is hard on their stuff; some gems are simply not tough enough to be worn in everyday rings and bracelets. Emeralds can fall under both of those categories.
I think emeralds are gorgeous. Fine Colombian emeralds are green like almost no other gem in the world, but they often come with an exceptional price tag. Not that that’s bad thing; you’re paying for quality, but like some things in the jewelry world, large, fine emeralds can be exclusively expensive.
As I discussed in a previous blog, emeralds also tend to be rather fragile and high maintenance. While protecting your investment is warranted, and I am staunch believer that your jewelry should be worn and appreciated, emerald rings and bracelets should not be everyday-wears.
But are there really any other such beautiful, glowing greens to be had in the gemstone world that aren’t so expensive and don’t come with a laundry list of “thou shalt nots?” Well, sort of. Frankly, there is really nothing in the world quite like a fine emerald, but there are a few that come close.
Demantoid garnet is one of those. But because of its own distinct beauty and the rarity of fine material, it’s pricey. It also doesn’t really look like emerald; it looks like demantoid. It’s kind of like comparing apples and oranges: very, very expensive apples and oranges.
Chrome diopside is much more affordable, but it’s even more delicate than emerald (setting it in a ring or bracelet just makes me nervous). Chrome diopside is also usually too dark of a green to compare to emerald.
There are really only two viable options that I’ll back: tsavorite garnet and chrome tourmaline.
Tsavorite is colored by vanadium, the same element that colors Zambian and Zimbabwean emeralds. Nice, evenly colored, properly saturated tsavorite is kind of spendy, but not nearly as much as emerald. It’s also a little on the soft side, but garnets in general are fairly robust as most gems go. They have no cleavage and are rarely enhanced with after-mining treatments. Like all garnets, tsavorite has a high refractive index, so it sparkles more, but doesn’t have that alluring glow for which emeralds are so famous.
My real winner in this debate is chrome tourmaline. Chromium, the trace impurity that provides the finest greens in emerald, jade, and demantoid, combines its outstanding green with a gemstone that has daily-wear durability and a much more accessible price point. It’s a great combination.
Most green tourmalines are pretty on their own, but they tend to be olive-toned or watery since they are usually colored by iron. Chrome tourmaline is a little more expensive than its non-chromian siblings, but it will hardly break the bank unless you’re looking for something of outrageous size.