Where Chatham Meets Rembrandt
There is a reason why we refer to created emeralds as art!
It was one of those moments when you find yourself just sitting and staring, somewhat in disbelief but mostly in wonder. I was in an art gallery in Miami Beach when I saw my first Old World masterpiece, painted by one of the Old-World masters, and the image of the young woman was so life-like that my mind said: “photograph” while the sign on the painting confirmed it was done long before cameras were invented. I do not remember the specific artist, but this was artistic perfection far beyond anything I had seen and was something of an epiphany regarding the artistic talent that was required to capture this moment in time from so long ago, in such a true-to-life creation.
The ability to perfectly duplicate by hand what was created by nature requires artistry that few possess, and in few instances does this apply as much as in the duplication of nature’s creation of gemstones in a scientific lab.
To appreciate artistic talent, one must appreciate the real-life subjects that it emulates. My appreciation for natural emeralds started when I worked for Jules R. Sauer of Amsterdam Sauer based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mr. Sauer is the man responsible for the final acceptance of the vanadium-based Brazilian emerald as a true emerald by the industry, and not just green beryl. I was also Island Manager for a company named Colombian Emeralds International on the Caribbean Dutch island of Sint Maarten, which allowed me to experience some of the finest Colombian emeralds on the market. After founding the Caribbean Gemological Institute in 1992, I had the honor to work with such names as Ken Bronkie in Colombia, and Hans Stern of H. Stern Jewelers, learning from these masters of the emerald industry.
The knowledge of emeralds that these experiences gave me, laid the foundation of my appreciation of what it takes to create these wonders of nature. After experiencing the Old-World masterpiece in the art gallery and being able to study a wide variety of created emeralds, I have come to realize that there is a place in all of this Where Chatham Meets Rembrandt.
As part of last night’s IIJA Gemstone Summer School discussions, we reviewed some of the more famous lab-created emerald products to see just how well they emulated nature. The reason being that, just like artistic paintings, created emeralds are not all created equally. Some may look quite authentic but are more just poor forgeries rather than true authentic art.
Here are some examples of both…
In 1995 the A.G. Japan Ltd. of Tokyo introduced this emerald as being “AGEE Emerald, refined and recrystallized” (JCK 1995) The claim was that this company was taking natural Colombian emerald pieces, crushing them, purifying them and then recrystallizing them into new emeralds. As is so often the case in this industry, that someone had the cajones to make a claim like this the industry, in general, accepted the claim as truth. (After all, there is someone out there overseeing this kind of thing….right? YIKES!)
At any rate, the emeralds were sold at trade shows for many years, which is where the IIJA obtained our two specimens of this material, sold to us as “recrystallized natural Colombian emeralds”, and not a created emerald.
The first problem I found with this claim was that it had all the markings of hydrothermal emerald, like so many others on the market. It was pretty, and it did test in all categories as emerald, but the claim that this created emerald had some natural type properties since it was recrystallization of natural Colombian emeralds…just seemed more like a sales pitch than a gemological property of some type.
As you can see in the images at right and below, the inclusions were rather unique, but not anything out of the ordinary for created emerald. In fact, the inclusions below are unusual for natural emerald and specifically speak to a created origin.
Below left you see the reactions of these Agee emeralds through the Chelsea filter, demonstrating the expected strong red reaction that is far brighter than could be captured in this image set. Below right is the very pronounced absorption lines of chromium, the coloring element of emerald, that is very strong and very often seen in created emeralds with high concentrations of chromium to enhance their colors. The confirmation of the suspicion came at the hands of Google when I found the article from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute that stated the AGEE emeralds were indeed simply hydrothermal created emeralds. While the SSEF reported the AGEE emerald to have properties of the Biron created emerald, we found that not to be the case which you will see shortly.
Over the years the IIJA has collected emerald specimens from as many different sources as possible. The purpose is to enhance and expand our IIJA Created and Treated Gemstones course to include as complete a collection as possible, of as many types of created and treated gemstones as possible, for our student study.
Biron and Russian Hydrothermal, Inamori Flux-Melt
At left is a parcel of over 100 created emeralds including Biron Hydrothermal, Russia Hydrothermal, and Inamori Flux-Melt. This parcel is part of the amazing collection donated to the IIJA Created and Treated Gemstones course by the good folks at Chatham Created Gems. The first order of business was to see if I could separate the three types of created emerald from this huge parcel.
It turned out to be easier than many might expect.
The simple use of a Long Wave Ultraviolet light made separation of the Inamori created emeralds quite easy as you can see at right. These created emeralds reacted very strongly to the UV light, allowing me to easily separate them in the parcel. The use of characteristic inclusions in the stones made the confirmation also easy as the hydrothermal Biron and Russia stones presented classic structuring as we will see below.
The most unusual issue raised by the photograph at right is that the Biron and Russian hydrothermal emeralds were totally inert to any fluorescent reaction. While the Inamori demonstrated an expected reaction to UV, they also offered a repeatable and predictable reaction to the Chelsea filter, owing to the high content of chromium in their structure.
Again, neither the Biron or Russian hydrothermal emeralds showed any reaction to the Chelsea filter. Totally inert to both UV and Chelsea filter.
At left you see one of the Biron hydrothermal emeralds. It is pretty. It is a hydrothermal created beryl. It is green. But…..is it an emerald? That is the question I have on this after looking at a hundred or so of the stones.
Below you see the “growth zoning” (as it is referred to often in the industry) that is classic for hydrothermal gemstones. We have shown this in aquamarine, sapphire and other created gemstones as well as the Biron emerald at left and below. This structure is considered diagnostic for the identification of hydrothermal emerald as it is only found in created emeralds of this method. Below you see this structure in 10x at left, and at 30x below right. But from here……the artistic comparison of these emeralds to nature’s emeralds take a sharp turn…
Above: UV-VIS-NIR screens from our MDM Spectrometer. Above left: Biron Created Emerald Above right: Chatham Created Emerald
Comparing the UV-VIS-NIR spectra of these Biron and Russian hydrothermal emeralds to those of natural emeralds and most other created emeralds, the variations are significant. The Biron Created Emerald showed faint “rail-road” absorption lines of the chromium at 680nm (above left) as compared to the Chatham Created Emerald (above right). However, the strong presence of iron at 427nm region was anticipated according to Alan Hodgkinson’s book: Gem Testing Techniques, pp 213, Spec-450, due to high iron content used for color in the stones. A high iron content would certainly resolve the issue of the complete lack of fluorescent reaction of these stones, but the lack of a reaction from the Chelsea filter was unusual as chromium is present, but according to a comparison of other created emerald reactions and spectra, in very low amounts.
Comparing the UV-VIS-NIR spectra of these Biron and Russian hydrothermal emeralds to those of natural emeralds and most other created emeralds, the variations are significant. While the “rail-road” absorption lines of the chromium at 680n was present to a lesser degree of intensity, the pronounced line at 427nm was anticipated according to Alan Hodgkinson’s book: Gem Testing Techniques, pp 213, Spec-450, due to high iron content. A high iron content would certainly resolve the issue of the complete lack of fluorescent reaction of these stones, but the lack of a reaction from the Chelsea filter was unusual as chromium is present, but according to a comparison of other created emerald reactions and spectra, in very low amounts.
As a result, the question presented itself: Could iron be a major coloring component of these Biron and Russian hydrothermal emeralds, as it is with peridot. Could the manufacturers have relied on iron for the green color, more than chromium? While the money to have LA-ICP-MS done on these stones is lacking, I was able to utilize the work of Kirk Feral and his excellent reference website on Gemstone Magnetism to test for iron content. While lab-created emeralds are expected to be “weak to moderate” in magnetic attraction, I found the Biron and Russian hydrothermal created stones to be so strong that I could drag them around a container of water on a float. By comparing the known Inamori, Chatham and natural emeralds to these Biron and Russian hydrothermal emeralds, one has to wonder if the extremely high iron content of these created beryls is not the main cause of the green color, and if so…..should these really be called “created emeralds” and perhaps not more accurately “created green beryl” as they do not actually emulate a natural emerald in all categories?
A photo slide presentation of the actual magnetic test of the Biron emerald is below left. Compare this to the test result of a Chatham Created Emerald below right (with apologies for the focus issues trying to do this and photograph it at the same time). The strong magnetic attraction of the Biron and Russian hydrothermal emeralds was off the charts for anything else remotely connected to natural or created emerald
Chatham Created Emerald
While the IIJA already owned a small collection of Chatham Created Gemstones, we were fortunate to have these folks donate several parcels of their various products, including a parcel of 80+ Chatham Created Emeralds for our IIJA Student Reference Collection. You can see part of this parcel below left, along with an image of one of the amazing Chatham Created Emeralds below right. The first thing that struck me about these gemstones is just how accurately they emulate nature’s emeralds. Emeralds in nature are not perfect, owing to the impact that chromium has on gemstone inclusions with ruby, emerald, and alexandrite. The finest natural emeralds that come from Colombia are colored by chromium, which offers a characteristic red reaction to the Chelsea filter. These same Colombian emeralds grew in a fairly violent environment where super-heated water rich in beryllium and aluminum and silicon cooled at just the perfect rate and in the perfect place to allow the amazing natural Colombian emeralds to form.
Having worked with so many of these Colombian emeralds for so many years, I found no other created emerald on the market that so completely emulates the work of nature as the Chatham Created Emerald.
While the Chatham Created Emerald is as close to natural as one can get, there are ways to identify the Chatham Created Emerald that should take any trepidation out of buying and selling of these emeralds. The classic “fingerprint” inclusions as seen below left are virtually diagnostic for flux-melt created emeralds, and a well-trained gemologist should have no problem making that identification. Also, the curved veiling of the flux-melt, where the veils tend to curve back in on themselves, is also a very important identifier particularly of Chatham Created Emeralds as seen below right.
Just like its natural Colombian emerald counterpart, the Chatham Created Emerald presents predictable and repeatable gemological test results that make the Chatham Created Emerald the closest thing to a natural emerald that can be produced in a scientifically created environment. The Chelsea filter and ultraviolet reaction of Chatham Created Emeralds is seen below.
I should note that while Chatham Created Gems donated specimens to the IIJA for study, they have no idea this report is being written nor have they had any input into its results. The results of the review of the various created emeralds stands on their own merits. While there are many created emeralds on the market making all manner of claims, both true and bogus, based on actual testing and comparison there is only one created emerald that I found to truly emulate nature. I find that emerald, on its own merits, to be a true work of art in the gemstone creation field as it truly emulates the beauty of nature, and in a way that more people can afford to appreciate that beauty.
What Rembrandt did for art, Carroll Chatham did for emeralds. It’s the place Where Chatham Meets Rembrandt.
Robert James FGA, GG
President, Insurance Institute of Jewelry Appraisal Inc.
a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Education Organization