The earliest known source of emerald was near the Red Sea in Egypt, the so-called Cleopatra's emerald mines. They were probably worked from about 2000 B.C., apparently the location of them was lost in the middle ages, and not rediscovered until 1818. Most emeralds used in ancient jewellery are believed to have come from these mines. They are not worked nowadays because of the low quality of crystals found.
Emeralds have been found in Austria since Roman times, in the Legbach ravine at Habachtal near Salzburg. These are no longer commercially mined.
Columbia is generally recognised as the source of the world's finest quality emeralds, both in the past and the present. The Columbian Indians were using them before 1537, when Quesada conquered Columbia. Later the Spanish discovered that the emerald mines were at Somondoco, which means "god of the green stones", and which is now known as Chivor. The best coloured Columbian emeralds are said to be those from the Muzo mine, although another mine at Cosquez is also highly rated.
Russia has been another important source of emeralds in the past. Most Russian emeralds coming from Sverdlovsk or Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.
Emeralds were discovered in Australia in 1890 in New South Wales.
Emeralds were discovered between1927 and 1929 at Gravelotte in South Africa, followed by other sources.
Another important source of superb quality emeralds, usually only of small size, is Sandawana in Zimbabwe formerly Southern Rhodesia. These were discovered only in 1956.
Emeralds were known in India from antiquity, but their source is not certain. The earliest known Indian source was 1929 at Arawalli in Rajahstan, other sources being discovered since. The quality of Indian emeralds is very variable, but most are of lower quality which are often polished as beads.
Colombia is still the main country of occurrence for fine Emeralds. About 150 mining sites are known there, but not all of these are currently being exploited. The most famous names in this context are Muzo and Chivor, where even in pre-Colombian times the Incas mined Emeralds. The economically most important mine is Coscuez. Estimates ascribe about three quarters of the current Colombian emerald production to the about 60 locations belonging to the Coscuez mine. Colombian Emeralds are set apart from Emeralds of other origin by their especially fine and brilliant green which is not influenced by any bluish tinge. Depending on the place of occurrence, the colour of Emerald may vary. This fascinatingly beautiful colour is highly coveted in the international Emerald trade, so that even visible inclusions which can be discerned with the mere eye are acceptable. But Colombia has more to offer: from Colombian Emerald mines occasionally there come Emerald rarities on the market, like "Trapiche-emeralds” displaying a six-ray-star , or like the extremely rare Emerald Cat’s Eye.
Although undoubtedly the best and finest qualities of emeralds are from Colombia, it would be wrong to suppose that the "birthplace” of a stone automatically guarantees immaculate quality. Fine emeralds are also found in other countries such as the Zambia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan or Russia. Mainly Zambia, Zimbabwe and Brazil have gained an international reputation for fine Emeralds. From Zambia there are exported excellent Emerald crystals in a beautiful, deep emerald green showing good transparency. Their colour is usually darker than that of Colombian stones and often has a fine bluish undertone. From Zimbabwe’s famous Sandawana mines there come usually smaller, but very fine Emeralds in a vivid and deep green, often with a slight yellowish-green shade. Brazil’s gemstone mine Nova Era at present even challenges the famous Colombian Emerald mines: their production of Emeralds in beautiful shades of green compete in their attractive beauty with the gemstones offered by the neighbouring country. Because of the occurrences found in Africa and Brazil, Emeralds are fortunately available in larger amounts today than in earlier times - much to the pleasure of their fans.
Other sources of emerald include Norway, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, although non of these are very important.