A Buyer’s Guide to Emeralds

Are you ready to invest in emeralds, but still have apprehensions regarding this big decision? Pooja Savansukha of Saffronart has put together an informative guide with everything you’d like to know about emeralds.

Undeniably, you have been captivated by the mystical charm of emeralds. You can’t be blamed; it is impossible to resist the deep green radiance that an emerald exudes. In fact, these stones have often been considered to be the most precious stones, greatly revered historically by the Inca’s, the Aztec’s and most notably the Egyptian pharaohs. Today, adorning an emerald instantly places you in the legacy of Cleopatra, Shah Jahan, and many other royal or historic figures. While this may already incentivize you, we have decided to provide you with everything else you should know to help you make your choice to invest in emeralds.

Emeralds and Emerald Formation:

Fine emeralds form naturally when a rare blend of pressure, heat and chemical solutions in the earth causes an emerald to form. Emeralds belong to the beryl family that also consists of aquamarine, heliodor and beryls in other colours. A green beryl is only classified as an emerald when its colour is darker and deeper than an ordinary beryl.  While there are other green gems such as peridot and tourmaline, an emerald is associated with the richest and most extraordinary shade of green.

Considering the origin of emeralds immediately brings to mind ‘Cleopatra’s Mines’ near the red sea in Egypt that are known to be the earliest account of the extraction of these stones, dating back to 3500 BC. Most emeralds embedded in ancient Egyptian jewellery were from these mines. Emeralds have also been procured from Colombian mines since 500 AD.

Currently, emeralds are mined from several countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Zambia, Afghanistan, India, Zimbabwe, Russia and Pakistan. Colombian mines are known to contain some of the highest quality emeralds in the world. Zambian mines are also gaining prominence for not only producing high quality emeralds but for also adopting the most ethical standards socially, environmentally and in terms of safety while mining.

An Emerald Crystal from a Columbian Mine www.gia.edu/emerald

An Emerald Crystal from a Columbian Mine

Mining emeralds is an extremely delicate process. It is however not the only delicate process that an emerald goes through. Before an emerald is ready for sale, natural emerald crystals extracted from mines must go through several procedures before they attain the shapes, cut and polish that we appreciate so much. Often certain stones may go through numerous additional treatments too, and these affect their value. The easiest way to evaluate an emerald is through the 4 C’s: Colour, Clarity, Cut, and Carats.


The colour of an emerald is indicated by the amount of trace elements such as chromium, vanadium and iron that it contains. The best emeralds have colours that range from a bluish-green to a pure green. Usually, the darker the emerald, the higher its value, but a tone that is too dark is also undesirable. An emerald will be translucent, and the most precious emeralds will be highly transparent, with an even distribution of colour. Remember that if an emerald appears to be too yellowish or bluish in colour, it may not be an emerald, but just another kind of beryl.

Colombian emeralds are generally known to have a pure green colour while Zambian emeralds are said to have a bluish-green colour.


During the formation of an emerald, small amounts of minerals, liquids or other fluid may get trapped into the emerald. These are called inclusions. Too many inclusions can reduce the transparency of an emerald, but a few inclusions are essential to differentiate natural emeralds from synthetics. An emerald may also contain fissures or fractures that affect the clarity of a stone. The most prized emeralds have few inclusions and very minor fractures, if any.

Most emeralds undergo clarity enhancing treatments. Historically, oils have been used to fill fissures and fractures. Resins might also be used as fillers. While both oils and resins have similar effects and are temporary procedures, a resin may last longer as filler. Generally, fillers cause no harm to an emerald and can easily be removed or altered. Emeralds that require the least enhancing treatment are usually the most valuable. You can easily enquire what types of treatment an emerald has been through before buying it.


Emeralds are fragile compared to most precious stones and are easily susceptible to being damaged. Furthermore, most emeralds contain fractures, making them even more vulnerable. But rest assured, for cuts can be used to protect the stone from damage. Usually, the corners of an emerald are cut to create facets that protect them from chipping. The octagonal shape obtained by this kind of cut is known as an emerald cut. While cuts are supposed to be protective do verify that your emerald has been cut well, as an error in the cut can drop the value of your stone. Cuts are also used to create other shapes for emeralds.

An unmounted emerald-cut emerald, the most common cut although emeralds are available in other cuts too http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41314&a=

An unmounted emerald-cut emerald, the most common cut although emeralds are available in other cuts too

Carat Weight

Emeralds are available in a multitude of sizes. While you might easily assume that a higher carat weight must account for a high value, this is not true. An emeralds value is judged primarily upon its colour and clarity. It is thus completely possible for an emerald with a lighter weight to be a better investment than one with a higher carat weight.


How to Look After your Emeralds?

Emeralds are very delicate and may require more care than other precious stones, but they are beautiful and maintaining them well will ensure that they remain in good condition for a long time. You just need to ensure that you don’t expose your emerald to too much heat or steam, or very strong rays of light from a close proximity. The most ideal way to clean an emerald is gently scrubbing it with slightly warm, mild soapy water.

On an ending note, remember that a good quality emerald is considered to be even more valuable than diamonds.

Check out our Columbian and Zambian Emerald Exhibition catalogue by clicking here

Source: www.gia.edu


Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart reminiscences about some of the iconic emerald jewelry with an Indian connection

New York: The allure of the emerald is undeniable given its famed reputation and esteem that has persisted since antiquity. Our current exhibition of emerald  jewelry featuring  stones of Colombian and Zambian origin, presents an eclectic collection of beautiful ornaments to appeal to varied tastes and aesthetics.

Image 1a

Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41327&pt=2&eid=3692

Emeralds have enjoyed a privileged status since centuries. A coveted precious stone, there are umpteen historic tales and folklore associated with it, perpetuating its grand aura in our psyche. Ancient texts from Egyptian and the Greco-Roman civilizations profess the wider beliefs of those times, which granted emeralds healing properties and astrological associations. King Nero is said to have viewed gladiator fights through a large, transparent emerald while Egyptian queen Cleopatra was one of the greatest admirer of her stone during her times. Stories abound and legacies persist.

Emerald 1
Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41319&a=

Closer to home, the Mughals commissioned many objets d’art fashioned from emeralds. Shah Jahan is known to have had a special affinity for this stone and had many of the pieces in his collection inscribed with sacred verses. These were then worn as talismans- bringing prosperity to the wearer and keeping them from harm’s way. One of the most famous examples of a talismanic emerald from the Mughal period is ‘The Mogul Mughal’. Dated to 1695 and weighing 217.80 carats, the obverse is engraved with Shi’a invocations in elegant naskh script and the reverse carved all over with foliate decoration. The dense color and the delicate carving are truly magnificent.

Emerald 2
Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41331&a=

The British rulers were also admirers of precious stones and were gifted many jewels during their presence in India as gifts and offerings. The eminent Delhi Durbar of 1911 was one such occasion. It commemorated the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary and proclaimed them as the Emperor and Empress of India. A significant event, it was attended by Indian royals from all over the subcontinent. On this occasion the Queen was presented with the Delhi Durbar Tiara, a beautiful emerald necklace, given to her by the Maharani of Patiala on behalf of the Ladies of India. In 1912 the necklace was slightly altered, making the existing emerald pendant detachable and adding a second detachable diamond pendant.  The necklace was inherited by the present Queen who has worn it many occasions in the recent years.

Emerald 3
Credit: http://www.saffronart.com/fixedjewelry/PieceDetails.aspx?iid=41312&pt=2&eid=3692

Cartier undertook many commissions for Indian royals during the early decades of the 20th century. Many iconic pieces of jewelry were produced by him on the behest of sovereigns from the subcontinent.  Amongst these was a magnificent turban ornament of emerald, diamond and pearl for the Maharaja of Kapurthala, made with 15 large emeralds from the Maharajah’s own collection. During this period, Indian royals also commissioned many pieces inspired by then popular Art Deco aesthetics all the rage in Europe.  Emerald was a popular choice and was featured in many pieces created by western designers for Indian clientele.   

Emeralds have enjoyed a lasting patronage from its Indian admirers. This magnificent stone has seamlessly adapted to the varied styles and aesthetics over the years. Our current collection is an opportunity for you to partake in that experience.

How to ( … ) things that Don’t Exist

FIFA’s over but there’s more to Brazil than football! Sneha Shah explores the development of the 31st São Paolo Biennial.

Panning a little to the west of Rio de Janeiro, where Germany championed triumphantly at the FIFA 2014 World Cup Finals, the 31st São Paulo Biennale is shaping up for its early September vernissage. Whilst the home team had a terrible defeat, all my fellow Brazilian supporters will be happy to know that Brazil is appearing pretty strong on the art and culture front. For those new to it, the São Paulo Biennale is South America’s largest contemporary art survey, and the second oldest biennial in the world (1951) after Venice’s (1851). Promoting international involvement right from its initiation the Biennale has been instrumental in making Brazil an international centre for contemporary art and establishing a market for Brazilian art globally.

Image of the pavilion taken at the 30th Edition of the São Paulo Biennale (2012) Credit: Artinfo

Image of the pavilion taken at the 30th Edition of the São Paulo Biennale (2012)
Source: Artinfo

Like its Venetian counterpart, the São Paulo Biennale Foundation invites a team of curators to conceptualize the event. Charles Esche, Galit Eilat, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente and Oren Sagiv, along with associate curators Benjamin Seroussi and Luiza Proença, will be developing this year’s edition. Focusing on educative collaboration, questioning the definition of ‘art’ today, and eliminating formal hierarchies between artist, participant, viewer and user, the curators have decided to replace  genre-specific ‘artworks’ with the more generic term ‘projects’.

Inviting educators, sociologists, architects along with artists and performers to participate, the projects will be unresolved and exploratory; their unscrambling will sustain from the experiences and active involvement of individuals within the event. The curators urge “This is not a Bienal built on art and objects, but on people working with people on projects; on collaborations between individuals and groups; on relationships that should continue and develop throughout and, perhaps, even after the 31st Bienal is over,” on the official biennial website.

Official poster design by  participating artist Prabhakar Pachpute Credits: The Biennial

Official poster design by participating artist Prabhakar Pachpute
Source: The Biennial

Themed “How to (…) things that don’t exist”, with the ellipses interchangeable with verbs “feel”, “talk about”, “struggle with”, “use”, “read”, etc. the projects will reflect on subjects that seem to fall out of commonly accepted beliefs, frames of thinking and doing. Influenced or censored by expectations of immediate society, country, or world at large, human concerns, acts and understanding often materialize as emotions, injustices and struggles we feel we can’t surpass. The participating artists began their journey by ‘talking about’ these distresses, later moving onto ‘living with’ them as part of a 2-8 week residency within São Paolo and Brazil at large. ‘Using’, ‘struggling against’ and ‘learning from’ their experiences, the 75 collaborators will echo the optimism and possibilities of art today, challenging the capacity of the arts in its ability to reflect and act upon these ideals, beliefs, and societal concerns at the 31st São Paulo Biennial.

The biennial will open its doors on September 6th in the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion. This year the pavilion has been divided in three architectural zones: the Park, Ramp and Columns, providing three distinctly different environments for viewers to encounter this artistic development and discourse.

The Park Credits: 31ABienal

The Park
Source: 31ABienal

The Ramp Credits: 31ABienal

The Ramp
Source: 31ABienal

The Columns Credits: 31ABienal

The Columns
Source: 31ABienal

That said, the participants have their work cut out for them and I for one cannot wait to see their creations! So don’t stray away from Brazil just yet, and stay tuned for more updates on the 31st São Paulo Biennial

Sadequain at AICON, New York

Josheen Oberoi visits AICON Gallery’s expansive Sadequain exhibition

New York: It’s been a quiet month in the New York art world. With half the community decamping to Art Basel and the rest distracted by the blessed warm weather (we had a tough winter here!); interesting shows have been relatively thin on the ground. Not for South Asian art, thankfully. AICON Gallery is showing a mini retrospective of the Pakistani artist Syed Sadequain (1930-1987) and I was excited to see it not only for the quality of art but also the rarity of having access to such a body of work.

Occupying the entire expansive space of AICON’s Lower East Side gallery, this exhibit shows the gamut of Sadequain’s oeuvre. One of Pakistan’s most celebrated modernist artists, Sadequain was born in 1930 in Amroha, east of Delhi, in a family of calligraphers. He subsequently moved to Pakistan after his graduation from Agra University in 1948. He shot to fame at the young age of 31, when his work won recognition at the 1961 Paris Biennale.

A self-taught artist, he is most commonly identified with the development of a uniquely idiomatic calligraphic aesthetic. However, his visual language is in fact one of the most variegated and complex of the South Asian modernists working post 1947. He simultaneously worked through a variety of calligraphic, narrative, abstract registers, with artistic influences that ranged from multiple mediums; poetry, Western and South Asian historical artistic traditions. His compatriot, collaborator and famed poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz stated about his work, “In spite of his considerable pre-occupation with the solution of technical formal problems, Sadequain has never been purely a formal painter. Recordist, abstractionist, social critic, emotional visionary, within a few short years, Sadequain has sped from one role or compulsion to another with equal impetuosity.”

Three standing figures

Three Standing Figures, 1966, Oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Sadequain’s engagement with language was seminal to his work and this is visible in this exhibition. Comprising twenty seven paintings and three drawings, the show is dominated by a collection of paintings from the 1960s, when Sadequain lived and worked in Paris. Titled The Lost Exhibition, this set of eight paintings are dancing figures of calligraphy; lyrical despite their scale. These works are considered examples of what the artist called “Calligraphic Cubism”. Employing the scratched surface technique on the background, the texture produces volume and three- dimensionality. Seemingly caught in action, the elongated movement of the script along the vertical axis make these works appear monumental in viewing. Sadequain described himself as a figurative painter and the dramatic execution of the Arabic Kufic script in these works, the ensuing conversations that are taking place on the canvas, did bring home that idea to me. These are the strongest works in the exhibit and definitely worth a dekko.

Man with Dagger, Oil on canvas, 54 x 30 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery

Man with Dagger, Oil on canvas, 54 x 30 inches
Image courtesy: AICON Gallery

Some of Sadequain’s formally figurative works are also part of this exhibition and these underline the remarkable range of his visual vernacular. Line, form, perspective – I was hard won to find a singly unifying element among these paintings. One of the more striking of these was Man With Dagger, showing a man holding a dagger in one hand and a head that resembles his own in the other, accompanied by a smaller figure of a woman holding a leaf. These muscular renderings, so different from The Lost Exhibition, are echoed in another set of calligraphic paintings in the exhibition, Untitled (Abstract Formation I and II). Interestingly, the image of a severed head is repeated in one of the works on paper, Untitled, Headless Self-Portrait. It clearly shows the headless artist in a studio, with a work of calligraphy in the background.

Untitled, Abstract Formation 1, c. 1960, Oil on canvas, 25.5 x 16 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Untitled, Abstract Formation 1, c. 1960, Oil on canvas, 25.5 x 16 inches
Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Untitled, Headless Self Portrait, 1967, Ink on Paper, 28 x 20 inches Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York

Untitled, Headless Self Portrait, 1967, Ink on Paper, 28 x 20 inches
Image courtesy: AICON Gallery, New York














In 1962, an edition of the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro rightly noted, “Sadequain adds up the impression of space, density, volume and the reality of matter, which transforms an abstract thought into a material fact in plastic.” He shifted the paradigms of calligraphy, especially in his realization of its abstracted and stylized forms. This post cannot effectively capture the entire spectrum of his languages and so I would strongly recommend a trip down to the gallery to see them yourself if you’re in New York.

You can learn more about Sadequain at the Sadequain Foundation website (co sponsor of this exhibition) and from this article by art historian Iftikhar Dadi.

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Showcases the Tiny and Beautiful of Contemporary Indian Art

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses the Indian Pavilion in the upcoming Beirut Art Fair

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

Beirut Art Fair 2014
Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

 This September Lebanon will once again thrive as a major cultural hotspot in the global art community with the 5th edition of the Beirut Art Fair. Held at the Beirut International Exhibition Leisure Center, the fair will represent the most contemporary and innovative work from the local and international art markets. As it grows in popularity the Beirut Art Fair is proving more and more to be a vessel of booming international art sales, meshing together buyers and artists from both the Western and Eastern art markets. Last year, the 4th edition of the fair, displayed galleries from 14 countries and welcomed over 18,000 guests. Leading collectors throughout the Middle East and beyond flock to this event, because it assembles a global showcase of work in a creatively liberated environment.

Beirut Art Fair 2014 Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

Beirut Art Fair 2014
Photo courtesy of Beirut Art Fair.

In past years, the fair has focused primarily on a wealth of offerings from local galleries. However, there is a growing trend for outside influences. Last year the fair featured a South East Asia pavilion curated by Richard Koh. This year the focus will be the Indian Pavilion curated by Fabrice Bousteau. Bousteau’s previous credits include co-curating “Paris-Delhi-Bombay:India Through The Eyes of Indian and French Artists” at Paris’ Centre Pompidou focusing on the Indian subcontinent. The curator’s approach to the Indian Pavilion will break away from the now-typical rhythm and layout of traditional art fairs. He plans to channel a cabinet of curiosities, displaying a wide range of sizes and mediums. Bousteau’s vision of small and ornate rather than large and dramatic purposefully goes against what he believes is a trend in contemporary Indian art. “It will represent the Indian art scene from Subodh Gupta, the star, to the youngest Indian artists…the concept of the exhibition is to create a cabinet of curiosities. Indian artists love to make enormous sculptures…The idea was to [exhibit] some very small things, for a number of reasons, one of which is a question of budget…The idea is that small art is beautiful” Bousteau told The Daily Star. This shift away from large pieces should present an opportunity for less represented artists or artists with a different artistic process to be shown. The curator utilizes themes in traditional Hinduism as well as drawing comparisons between the Middle East and Indian societal makeup to select the works that will be presented. This nuanced curatorial approach may make the Indian Pavilion the creative focal point of Beirut.

By going against the grain in terms of classic fair curating, the Indian Pavilion may be tapping into a new buyer experience. How will art sales change if the offerings of a fair are depicted as a museum or private collection rather than a commerce-driven gallery? This is surely a more thoughtful and engaging methodology. The Beirut Art Fair 2014, and the Indian Pavilion specifically, will clearly be a pivotal event in the international art world this year. The Beirut Art Fair will run September 18th-21st, for more information about the fair please click here.

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