Colombian vs. Zambian Emeralds: What Are The Differences?

Emeralds are arguably the most in-demand coloured gemstone in the world for their rarity and inimitable hue (which has, indeed, birthed the term “emerald green”). While emerald gemstones are sourced from multiple places, including Pakistan, India, Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, and North Carolina in the USA, Colombian emeralds have held the #1 spot for desirability due to their fire and clarity. 

However, Zambian emeralds from Southern Africa are becoming more competitive with their offering of vibrant green emeralds of consistently high quality. Here, we look at what the key differences between Zambian and Colombian emeralds actually are.

What are Colombian emeralds?

Since the first Spaniards arrived in the New World in the 16th century, emeralds from Colombia have been used as personal adornments by emperors and even worshipped. Today, the South American nation supplies approximately 60-80% of emeralds globally.

These verdant stones of Colombian origin are set apart as more highly valuable due to:

  • They contain fewer inclusions/fractions (i.e. greater clarity) than emeralds sourced in other locations
  • Their distinct green, which is extremely lush and warm with little to no blue or grey undertones
  • Their exceptional saturation (i.e. consistent, deep colouration throughout)

Colombian emeralds have a hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. The price of emeralds from this South American country can range up to US$100,000 per carat depending on the colour and level of clarity. 

faceted Colombian emerald gemstone with reflection

What are Zambian emeralds?

The southern African country of Zambia is considered the second most significant producer of valuable emeralds after Colombia, accounting for around 20% of emeralds in the market worldwide. Emerald gemstones of Zambian origin have the following characteristics:

  • Contain more bluish hues than their Colombian counterpart (due to a higher iron content)
  • Tend to have even fewer inclusions than Colombian emeralds
  • 7.5 to 8 hardness on the Mohs scale

Zambian emeralds have a lower price than Colombian, gem-quality stones pushing up to USD$30,000 per carat.

diamond ring with deep green emerald gemstone setting

Colombian vs. Zambian emeralds

Why are Colombian emeralds valued higher than Zambian emeralds? The difference boils down to the Colombian gemstone’s longer-established reputation. In short, demand has driven up price for a long time.

While all emerald stones are created within specific geological conditions and can attribute their unmistakable green hue to the presence of the elements chromium, vanadium and iron, the differences in colour distribution, amount of imperfections, and inclusion type amount to distinct appearances in emeralds from the two countries.

In the end, deciding between a Colombian or Zambian emerald comes down to personal preference for the prestige of owning a gemstone of reputable origin and desired colour. Shoppers who want a more cost-effective option may prefer the Zambian emeralds, while the Colombian emerald is expected to remain at the forefront of demand for its renown for a time to come.

In an industry where consumers are becoming more educated about green issues, it is worth noting that both Colombian and Zambian emeralds are extracted through mining activities that negatively impact the surrounding landscape and miners’ health. These impacts include erosion, deforestation, and soil pollution. With consumer confidence in lab gemstones growing every year, BIRON® offers more ethical and environmentally-friendly Colombian-coloured emeralds at a fraction of the price.


Still regarded as the industry standard for excellent emerald gemstones, our signature lab-grown BIRON® Emerald has been formulated to be indistinguishable from natural Colombian emeralds. To learn more about accessing reliable, cost-effective access to one of the most desired gemstones for jewellery setting in the world, book a free consultation.

FAQ about Zambian and Colombian emeralds

Which country produces the best emeralds?

Both Colombia (upper South America) and Zambia (Southern Africa) produce emeralds that are recognized in the gem world for their rare colouration, deep saturation, and relatively fewer inclusions. However, emeralds of both these origins are mined and come with associated environmental and human health detriments. Increasingly, buyers are looking to conflict-free synthetic emeralds.

What is special about Colombian emeralds?

Colombian emeralds are highly desired because of their relative lack of cracks or inclusions, their unique, warm tone, and their vivid saturation. A combination of these qualities is harder to find in emerald gemstones from deposits in other parts of the world.

Are Zambian emeralds as valuable as Colombian?

Zambian emeralds have yet to surpass Colombian emeralds in their market price, as the Colombian market is more established. However, emerald stones sourced from Zambia are increasingly in demand for their comparable high quality and intense bluish-green.

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