Gemstones of South America
South America is the gemstone El Dorado. Colombia is source of the world's finest emerald and Brazil is a gem cornucopia, the source of aquamarine, tourmaline, topaz, amethyst, citrine, alexandrite, emerald, and countless other gems.
On any other continent, Chile's lapis lazuli and Uruguay and Bolivia's amethyst would warrant more than a passing mention but here, the gem competition is impressive.
When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the new world, they were staggered to see emeralds larger and more beautiful than they had imagined possible. Montezuma explained to Cortez that these green gems were much more valuable than the gold the Spaniards kept looking for. These vivid green gems of the New World, Colombian emeralds, soon found favor in the old world too, from the Moguls of India, who carved them with intricate designs to the crown jewels of royalty all over Europe and Asia.
Colombia’s emeralds are still the most prized today. The ancient mines of Muzo, Chivor and Cosquez are still the most important in the world, producing the majority of the world’s fine emerald.
Brazil, too, produces emerald along with an amazing variety of other gems in every conceivable color. Notable among them are some gems of exceptional quality. Brazil produces Imperial topaz in rich pinks and oranges, large and lovely aquamarine and amethyst, and exceptional tourmaline in reds, pinks and an electric blue-green called Paraiba tourmaline that commands tens of thousands of dollars per carat.
Brazil’s Fire Citrine is the finest variety of citrine. And Brazil is also the most important source today for cat’s-eye chrysoberyl and color-changing alexandrite.
Learn more about these South American gems in our Gem Fact Files: