One Of The Largest Emeralds In The World, Weighing In At 39.9 Ounces, Has Been Discovered In A Zambian Mine

The Inkalamu emerald is 5,655 carats and was found in the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, having remained there for 450 million years before its discovery.

One of the world's largest emeralds has been found in a Zambian mine.
Victor Moussa / Shutterstock

The Inkalamu emerald is 5,655 carats and was found in the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, having remained there for 450 million years before its discovery.

One of the largest emeralds ever discovered in the world has just been found buried deep in the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, and has been given the name of Inkalamu, which translates to Lion Emerald. This enormous crystal was found to weigh in at 5,655 carats (39.9 ounces).

As ScienceAlert has reported, the massive emerald has been described as having “remarkable clarity and a perfectly balanced golden green hue” by Gemfields, who are in charge of 75 percent of the Zambian mine. It was emerald miner Richard Kapeta and geologist Debapriya Rakshit who first stumbled upon the opulent crystal on October 2. And while the open-pit mine they were searching in has certainly produced some stunning emeralds, nothing quite like the Lion Emerald has ever been found here before.

However, despite the enormous size of Inkalamu, it is far from the largest emerald in the world. One of the prizes for this goes to Insofu (Elephant), which is an emerald that was found to weigh 6,225 carats and which was discovered back in 2010. But, by far, the biggest emerald ever recorded is the Bahia emerald which weighs 752 pounds and is 1.7 million carats. Despite the sizes of these other emeralds, Inkalamu may still easily rank in the top five of emeralds that have been discovered so far.

Emeralds form deep beneath the ground and, with just the right conditions in place, can become exceedingly large over time. Inclusions are frequently found in these crystals which are other objects that become stuck in the crystal while it is growing, and these can create brittle emeralds that are unable to stay intact well.

At the Kagem emerald mine, these crystals start out as beryllium that was shifted into place by volcanic magma, something which occurred approximately 500 million years ago. As the volcanic magma began its cooling process it turned into pegmatite, which is an igneous rock. Once the beryllium became highly crystallized, attaining its deep green hue thanks to chromium, this is when emeralds eventually began forming. In fact, once the Inkalamu emerald was found, it had already been deep beneath the ground for around 450 million years.

The enormous emerald found in the Zambian mine is set to be auctioned by Gemfields in November and it will almost certainly be cut into much smaller emeralds after its sale, according to spokesman Adrian Banks. On the other hand, the buyer may choose to keep the special emerald just as it is.

“There might be hundreds of offcuts that are fashioned into smaller gems, cabochons and beads, but the key lies in recovering the fine quality pieces. Given this emerald is such a rare find, it is also perfectly conceivable that the buyer will choose to purchase it as an investment.”

After the sale of the Inkalamu emerald is complete, Gemfields will be using 10 percent of the proceeds to put toward two important lion conservation programs in Zambia.