The Opportunity

Emerald Geology

The Colombian emerald fields are located on the eastern and western flanks of the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia and account for 50 to 70% of annual global supply. Although there are additional sources for emeralds globally, Colombian emeralds are characterised for their superior transparency.

Emeralds were formed at moderate geological temperature and pressure by the metamorphic processes that created the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes.

The Eastern Cordillera is located in the northern Andean orogenic belt in the central portion of Colombia and is a fold and thrust belt that has been active since the middle Miocene squeezed and thrust over its two foreland basins.

Formerly a sizeable Mesozoic basin, the Cordillera is composed of interbedded sandstones, limestones, black shales and evaporites (Cheilletz and Giuliani, 1995). The perspective formations in the district are the Muzo and Rosablanca which are lithologically similar.

The formations are made up of sequences of limestones, shales, siltstones and sandstones of variable thickness. The Rosablanca unit is significantly thicker throughout the basin and contains a more significant amount of limestone interbedded with the shales.

Emeralds form in calcite-dolomite veins with minor pyrite, Ankerite, Albite, and quartz. These veins are the product of exotic hydrothermal fluid and metasomatic fluid interaction followed by deposition along structures created by the tectonic activity in the belt.

Unlike other global emerald sources, Colombian emeralds are not directly related to the igneous activity.

Circulating saline fluids mobilised beryllium from sedimentary source rocks. Crystals grew in specific local structural ‘traps’ within faults and breccias.

The metasomic fluids come from shale formations, which are likely the source of Vanadium which is the cause of the vibrant colour characteristic and could be why only formations of a particular composition are perspective target horizons for emerald mineralisation.

From observations of several of the mines in the area, the mineralization favours the fractures within an alteration halo around large regional faults in particular formations, like the Itoco Fault which interacts with the Muzo formation, this fault line runs through most of the major emerald mines in the area. It is this vein that yields the emerald formations that give the region its notoriety for the high quality emeralds.