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Meet Esmeralda Gems: Three Generations Devoted to Fine Colombian Emeralds

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Esmeralda Gems is a wholesale distributor of fine Colombian emeralds and the primary emerald supplier for Thesis Gems and Jewelry. And over the course of our relationship, they have become one of our most treasured collaborators.

You may have noticed Esmeralda’s breathtaking emeralds in emerald cuts and pear shapes among our loose stones and original designs. But do you know the three generations of emerald experts behind the small company or how they have curated an unparalleled selection and achieved an international reputation for excellence?

Read on to learn more about Esmeralda Gems and how they inspire the artisans at Thesis with exquisite, responsibly sourced, colored stones.

Family Owned, Vertically Integrated

Gabriel Acuña founded Esmeralda in 1990, but its roots go deeper than that. Gabriel was raised in a village near Bogota, Colombia, and his father was in the emerald trade. Growing up, he absorbed much of his father’s extensive knowledge and, even more valuable, his father introduced him to the mines and miners he knew so well.

Gabriel did more than follow in his father’s footsteps — he went on to earn a Graduate Gemologist (GG) degree from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). After moving to California, he grew Esmeralda from his personal contacts, creating a vertically integrated supply chain from sourcing rough emerald crystals to sorting, grading, and cutting them for sale. 

Today, Gabriel’s son, Philip Acuña, has taken an increasingly active role in the company and is working alongside him to carry on the legacy of vast knowledge and passion for Colombian emeralds.

The “Trickle-Up Effect” of Ethical Jewelry

Esmeralda sources directly from mines in Colombia, focusing on regions that they know to produce the highest quality rough. And it is this close connection to their sources and understanding of the industry that gives me confidence in their product.

“In Colombia, it’s still an informal industry in many ways, with stones coming from unregistered, artisanal mines,” says Philip. “But they’ve become more diligent with standards, practices, and regulation of established mining companies.” Esmeralda sources primarily from established mines and. Their emeralds are fully traceable.

“Even in an imperfect industry,” Philip explains, “more and more people are talking about sustainability and consumers are becoming conscious. And that’s creating a trickle-up effect, from the customer to the wholesaler to the miners, where everyone is starting to realize this is important.”

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Committed to Superior Quality

Gabriel and Philip carefully hand-select their collection with exacting attention to quality. A large part of their success as a small company is due to their very strict standards, which attract buyers from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. They look at the color and clarity of each stone to find the most vivid and radiant material. They place particular emphasis on the cutting, working with masterful lapidaries to maximize brilliance and create beautifully faceted shapes. Each aspect of their business is meticulously considered.

The way in which their emeralds are treated- or not treated- is of particular importance to Esmeralda. For example, some emeralds are injected with plastic polymer resin to conceal flaws. Esmeralda, however, selects only emeralds that are inherently so exceptional that they need no treatment or only require traditional cedarwood oil, the least invasive, and only acceptable method to Esmeralda to fill internal fractures. By prioritizing no and low-treatment emeralds, they ensure that the best stones will reach their customers.

Thesis and Esmeralda

A Brilliant Collaboration

I was first drawn to Esmeralda by their commitment to quality, which is evident in the striking color, crystal, clarity, and cut of their stones. However, it was their dedication to transparent sourcing and long-standing personal relationships with miners that drew me to a collaboration.

“Cate is very meticulous with quality as well,” says Philip. “From the beginning, we aligned very well in terms of our standards and what stones appeal to us.” This shared understanding naturally evolved into a unique, more personal collaboration than is typical for a wholesaler. Philip will share his excitement for particular gems he has acquired, sparking creative design concepts that result in beautiful, finished jewelry. From Esmeralda’s collection, we have curated a small suite of incredibly unique emeralds. Another key to our collaboration is a shared interest in philanthropy.

Recently, Philip’s interests have expanded beyond emeralds to include exceptional tourmalines, spinel, sapphires, and other colored stones. This is sure to lead to even more awe-inspiring designs by Thesis artisans and clients.

Reach out today to ask us about the Esmeralda emeralds in our collection. You may even be inspired to create your own custom design jewelry or attend one of their Gem and Cocktail events (the next one in May 2021, please reach out to cate@thesisgems.com for more information).