Home Emerald Can Emeralds Crack: The Durability of a Precious Gem

Can Emeralds Crack: The Durability of a Precious Gem

by Madonna

Emeralds, with their captivating green allure, have fascinated civilizations for centuries. As one of the “Big Three” colored gemstones, along with rubies and sapphires, emeralds hold a special place in the world of jewelry and gemstone enthusiasts. However, one question that often arises is whether emeralds are prone to cracking. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of emeralds, exploring their durability, common vulnerabilities, and best practices for caring for these precious gems.

Understanding the Emerald’s Composition

Before delving into the issue of cracking, let’s understand the composition of emeralds. Emeralds belong to the beryl family of minerals, characterized by their stunning green color. The green hue in emeralds is primarily due to the presence of chromium and vanadium. However, unlike other gemstones like diamonds or sapphires, emeralds are inherently less durable due to their unique composition.


See Also: The Synthetic Emeralds: A Quick Guide


The Durability of Emeralds: Can They Crack?

Emeralds, while breathtaking in their beauty, are not as durable as some other gemstones. Their relative fragility is primarily attributed to the following factors:


1. Inclusions:

One of the most defining features of emeralds is their “jardin,” which is French for “garden.” This term is used to describe the often-visible internal inclusions and fractures present in emeralds. These inclusions are typically caused by the formation process of emeralds, and they can create points of vulnerability in the gem.

2. Brittle Nature:

Emeralds are relatively brittle gemstones, which means they are more prone to chipping or breaking when subjected to impact or pressure. This brittleness is a result of the crystal structure of beryl, which can easily develop fractures or cleavage planes.

3. Oil Treatments:

Many emeralds are treated with oil to enhance their clarity and appearance. While this treatment is widely accepted in the gemstone industry, it can sometimes mask existing fractures or inclusions, making the gem more susceptible to damage.

Are all emeralds prone to cracking?

Not all emeralds are equally prone to cracking. Their susceptibility depends on their individual characteristics, particularly the presence of internal inclusions and fractures. Emeralds often contain natural imperfections, and those with numerous or extensive internal flaws are more susceptible to cracking. These inclusions weaken the structural integrity of the gem, making them more fragile and prone to damage from physical impact or thermal stress. However, emeralds with fewer inclusions and better overall quality are less likely to crack, but care should still be taken to avoid subjecting them to harsh conditions or rough handling to ensure their longevity and beauty.

Common Causes of Emerald Cracking

Emeralds can crack or break under various circumstances. Some common causes of emerald cracking include:

1. Physical Impact:

The brittleness of emeralds makes them susceptible to cracking when subjected to physical impact or pressure. Dropping an emerald onto a hard surface or hitting it against a solid object can result in fractures or chips.

2. Sudden Temperature Changes:

Rapid temperature changes can cause thermal shock in emeralds, potentially leading to cracks. For example, exposing an emerald to extreme heat and then quickly cooling it can stress the gem.

3. Ultrasonic and Steam Cleaning:

Cleaning emeralds with ultrasonic or steam cleaners, which use vibrations and high-pressure steam, can be risky. These methods may exacerbate existing fractures or weaken the gem.

4. Removing Residues:

Emeralds treated with oil may require periodic cleaning to remove dirt and residues. Cleaning agents that dissolve the oil can affect the gem’s stability.

5. Poor Setting:

Incorrectly setting an emerald in jewelry, where it may not be adequately protected or secured, can increase the risk of damage.

Preventing Emerald Cracking: Best Practices

While emeralds may have some vulnerabilities, there are steps you can take to prevent cracking and ensure the longevity of your precious gem:

1. Protective Settings:

Have your emerald set in a protective mounting that covers vulnerable edges and corners. This can reduce the risk of accidental impact and chipping.

2. Gentle Cleaning:

Clean your emerald jewelry gently using a soft brush, warm soapy water, and a soft cloth. Avoid harsh chemicals, ultrasonic cleaners, or steam cleaning unless you are certain it’s safe for your particular emerald.

3. Regular Inspections:

Periodically inspect your emerald for loose settings, chips, or visible damage. Promptly address any issues to prevent further damage.

4. Avoid Extreme Temperatures:

Store your emerald jewelry away from extreme temperatures and sudden temperature changes. For instance, avoid exposing your emerald to direct sunlight for prolonged periods.

5. Purchase from Reputable Sources:

Buy emeralds from reputable jewelers who provide information on the gem’s treatment, origin, and any known inclusions or fractures. Transparent information allows you to make informed decisions about caring for your emerald.

Can cracked emeralds be repaired?

Cracked emeralds can sometimes be repaired, but the success of the repair depends on the extent of the damage and the skills of the gemstone cutter or jeweler performing the repair. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Assessment of Damage:

The first step is to assess the extent of the crack. If it’s a minor surface crack, it may be easier to repair than a deep and extensive crack that goes through the entire stone.

2. Re-cutting:

In some cases, a cracked emerald can be repaired by re-cutting the gemstone. The damaged portion is removed, and the stone is re-shaped into a different cut or shape that removes the crack. This can result in a smaller but crack-free emerald.

3. Filling:

Gemologists and jewelers may use a technique called “oiling” or “filling” to repair minor surface-reaching fractures or fissures. This involves filling the crack with a colorless oil or resin, such as cedarwood oil or epoxy, to improve the stone’s appearance and stability. This method is often used for emeralds, as emeralds are known to have natural inclusions and fissures.

4. Clarity Enhancement:

Some emeralds undergo clarity enhancement processes, which involve filling surface-reaching fractures with a substance that has a similar refractive index to emerald, making the cracks less visible. This process is common in the gem trade but should be disclosed when selling the stone.

5. Re-setting:

If the emerald is set in jewelry and the crack is not too severe, it may be possible to remove the damaged stone and replace it with a new one.

It’s important to note that repairing a cracked emerald can affect its value, especially if the repair is noticeable or if the emerald has undergone significant re-cutting. Additionally, some repair methods, like filling or clarity enhancement, may not be permanent, and the stone may require re-treatment in the future.

See Also: Which Metal Should Emerald Be Worn In: The Perfect Setting


Emeralds, with their enchanting green beauty, are cherished gemstones with a unique allure. While they may have some vulnerabilities due to their composition and formation process, emeralds can remain stunning and durable with proper care and precautions.

Understanding the factors that can lead to emerald cracking and following best practices for handling and caring for your emerald jewelry can help ensure that your precious gemstone retains its beauty for generations to come. By taking these measures, you can enjoy the elegance of emeralds without undue concern for their durability.


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