For thousands of years, humans have mined the earth for precious stones, including emeralds. During ancient times, Egypt hosted the most famous mines, and the Roman and Byzantine Empires reaped riches from then. However, once emeralds were discovered in Columbia, that region took over and there are no working mines in Egypt anymore. Columbia produces 50-95% of the world’s emerald productions. The world’s largest emerald mine, however, is found in Zambia near the Kafuba River. This October, a stone weighing 2 ½ pounds was unearthed.
Zambian emeralds are produced in a specific way. Two types are rock are involved – talc magnetite schist, which is a black rock created almost 2 billion year sago, and pegmatite, a white rock that’s 500 million year sold. As cooling magma rises through layers of minerals, the reactions between these two rocks creates gorgeous emeralds. Using geological models, experts can actually figure out where emeralds might be in the Kagem Mines, which extend about 16-square miles. Currently, Gemfields, a British company, owns 75% of the mine while the Zambian government owns the rest.
The massive emerald has 5, 655 carats. Gemfields even gave it a name: Inkalamu, which means “lion” in Bemba, a local language. After it’s broken down into smaller stones, it will be auctioned in Singapore this month. The company has promised that 10% of the sale will go to the Zambian Carnivore Programme and Niassa Carnivore Project, local lion conservation groups. This is the second huge emerald for Gemfields; in 2010, they unearthed a stone with over 6,000 carats and named it “Insofu,” which means “elephant.”
The world’s largest emerald ever came from Bahia, Brazil, and weighed a shocking 752 pounds. It had over a million and a half carats. After its discovery in 2001, miners moved it to Sao Paulo, where four years later, a mining entrepreneur shipped it to New Orleans. It was almost lost during Hurricane Katrina and somehow ended up in the care of a California investor, who in 2009 reported the emerald missing. Cops tracked it down to a vault in Las Vegas and after years of litigation, the owners of that vault won their claim. They said the emerald was theirs after it was used as collateral in a deal for diamonds gone bad. The Lion emerald will most likely not end up with such a complex story and will hopefully make some people happy; after all, emeralds symbolize hope and love.