What Causes Emerald Fractures?
Emeralds get their green color from chromium and vanadium. Learn how the presence of these elements affects their formation and causes emerald fractures.
Answer: The same things that give emeralds their intense green color can also cause their fractures.
The Chemical Basis for Emerald Fractures
This is the chemical formula for beryl:
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This article is also a part of our Emerald Specialist Mini Course, in the unit Emerald Care and Repair.
Beryl is composed of aluminum (Al), silicon (Si), oxygen (O), and extremely rare beryllium (Be). When the elements chromium (Cr) or vanadium (V) replace aluminum in the beryl formula, you get emeralds.
The presence of these trace elements gives emeralds their characteristic color. However, the valencies of chromium and vanadium don't mesh well with the beryl lattice structure. Chromium and vanadium are heavier atoms than aluminum and strain the crystal structure.
How Emeralds Form Underground
Natural emeralds form underground in intense heat. As the replacement of aluminum takes place, gases escape, creating microscopic voids in the crystals. Other minerals can fill these voids, creating inclusions that also strain the crystal structure and can cause emerald fractures. Sometimes, the gases themselves remain trapped and form bubble or liquid inclusions inside the gemstones.
Emeralds aren't the only members of the beryl family to undergo this process. Red beryl (bixbite) is formed when manganese replaces aluminum.
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