The Atocha-new revelations about early Gem Trading
They determined that levels
of oxygen isotopes within the crystals were accurate source-point indicators,
often linking the gem to an individual mine. In bombarding the Emerald
with an ion beam of cesium, they were able to collect and analyze the
dislodged oxygen ions, assigning them unique and specific values. The
researchers examined Emeralds from collections around the world, and
re-evaluated their supposed origins. Utilizing an Atocha Emerald as
the test subject, it was confirmed that the stone had a Colombian origin.
These findings were made public in the journal: Science-January 28,
The above described analysis
changed a long accepted theory-that all gem quality Emeralds in the
ancient world came from either Austria, or Egypt. It was discovered
that some gems originated in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The big surprise
was that most Emeralds believed "ancient", were actually mined
in Colombia, and shipped to the Old World by the Spanish fleets during
the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Spanish discovered Colombian Emeralds in 1536, during their conquest of South America, and immediately, they became highly prized. The mines worked by the indigenous people quickly came under Spanish authority, adding to a wide variety of New World treasures controlled by Spain. Emeralds from this region of Colombia, have long been considered the finest in the world. Emeralds brought up from the Atocha give strong archaeological evidence supporting this early trade. So far, about 6,000 uncut, "raw" Colombian gems have been recovered from the Atocha. Had the fabulously rich cargo of the Atocha reached her destination, these Emeralds could have spread across Europe and Asia, and the true location of where they were mined would have remained in doubt?